Update on the Kenya situation By: Phyllis Byrd

Each day seems to bring new developments. When I went home yesterday after writing the following update, a new development was announced on T.V. that I am including at the beginning of these reflections. The government said in order to accommodate the opposition's (ODM) proposal the county would have to make changes in the constitution. A team has been set up to look into the legal issues.

 

Greetings from Kenya

Each day seems to bring new developments. When I went home yesterday after writing the following update, a new development was announced on T.V. that I am including at the beginning of these reflections.  The government said in order to accommodate the opposition's (ODM) proposal the county would have to make changes in the constitution. A team has been set up to look into the legal issues.

UPDATE:

Last Friday the mediation talks took a break so that the principal leaders could discuss issues. The hitch or the difficulty seems to be the power sharing, that is, the coalition government. The Government side put forth that it should be at the President's discretion to appoint a non -executive prime minister. The president remains the head of the government until the next elections in 2012 and they will incorporate a few of the ODM members into the government. The ODM proposes that there be a separation of functions between state and government allowing for the establishment of a prime minister and two deputies. The Prime minister would head Government and the President to head the State. The Executive Authority would be held in the President, Prime Minister, and deputies and the cabinet.

Kofi Annan gave a press conference on Friday and reaffirmed his commitment to stay until the resolution of this conflict. He said that some people thought that if he became  frustrated and the process prolonged that he would leave but he reiterated his commitment to stay until a new administration is set up. 

The mediation talks received a boost on Monday with the visit of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice who came with a strong message from President Bush. She was adamant that Kenya should quickly return to governance and that there needs to be real power sharing not an illusion of power sharing between the two parties - ODM and PNU. She advocated for the two sides to have a grand coalition. The European Union said this as well.

The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Professor Wangari Maathai, has been a conciliatory voice during this process. She lost her parliamentary seat during the recent elections. The government took her security detail away. Please keep her in your prayers because her life has been threatened.  

Church:

Speaking of "optimism", the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA)  said on Saturday that foreign countries should not stipulate solutions to the political crisis in Kenya. He also said that the Annan team could fail because religious leaders are not included.

There have been many comments in the newspapers after the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK)admitted that the churches were divided because they supported leaders based on ethnicity. Many people feel the church has lost creditability and they have rebuked the NCCK (church leaders) for allowing themselves to be used. Kenya has a history of courageous leaders, such as Archbishop Okullu, Bishop Muge and Reverend Timothy Njoya, who challenged the government for its arbitrary use of power, corruption and injustice.  Dr. Njoya is a Presbyterian Cleric that was especially vocal during the Presidency of both Jomo Kenyatta and Moi. I wonder what it was that gave these three religious leaders such boldness?

I am in the process of writing a sermon that I am struggling with. I am using a familiar text Isaiah 6 and I have entitled the sermon "The sighted blind."  It is the passage that starts off:  "It the year that King Uzzah died I saw the Lord sitting upon the throne high and lifted up... vs. 9 ... Go and tell this people, Hear but do not understand and see but do not perceive."

I am not sure at what point the community of believers begins to not only see but also perceive. I like the Latin word "percipere" meaning to "seize completely." How does the church completely take hold of justice (or allow justice to take hold of us) and not allow our vision to be blurred by race, ethnicity, class or gender. 

Is there an unspoken prerequisite that is in the job advertisement of church leaders and church bureaucrats that says only those that have limited sight, null by mouth, well behaved, who go along with the crowd, and maintain the status quo need apply?

If by some mistake you are hired, despite these prerequisites, you might end up like the late Revered Veron Johns Senior pastor of Dexter Ave Baptist church, who was voted out of the church because of his stance for justice, and truth. The Rev. Dr. Martian Luther King succeeded him. What went into the thinking of the Dexter Ave Baptist church board that hired MLK? Did they think he was a status quo kind of guy that would bask in the presence of the aristocrats and preach sermons that made them feel good?  God has a wonderful sense of humor.  Rev Johns' ability to "percipere" was the foundation/launching pad needed for Martin Luther King Jr. to launch his non-violence movement in Alabama.

Archbishop Oscar Romero is an example of someone when he started off in ministry would have been an excellent candidate to fill the advertisement  "church leader position." I am not sure what happened to the elitist Archbishop that criticized the liberation Theologians.  When did he climbed out of the box and started seeing?

As I ponder these questions my mind shifts back to the church I grew up in. Before the worship service officially began the older women in the church would have a time of giving testimonies. Someone would "raise" a hymn, they would stand up with their eyes closed, tears streaming down their face and arms lifted up and begin to sing.

"At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled away. It was there by faith that I received my sight and now I am happy all the days...."

I think I finally understand that Archbishop Okullu, Bishop Muge, Rev. Dr. Timothy Njoya, Rev. Dr. Vernon Jones, Rev. Dr. Martian Luther King, and Archbishop Oscar Romero all had to go to the cross in order to gain their sight. It is only then they could completely seize justice or justice takes hold of them.