The Road that Divided the Communities
Wilson Gathungu facilitating an exercise during our peacemaking workshop
Marching for peace and reconciliation down the dividing highway
The dam that unites
Peace-building workshop participants
Roads often bring people together. They are the connectors that allow people to get from place to place, to trade goods and services, to come from their various dwelling places to gather for special events. But not in the Mauche area of Nukuru district in Kenya. The road from Nukuru to Mauche became a dividing line, separating the Kikuyus from the Kalenjins.
During the December 2007 election and spilling over into 2008 political violence cut down tribal lines, leaving over a thousand people dead. Mauche and the surrounding villages were one of the hottest spots in the conflict. After the worst violence ceased, the Kikuyus and Kalenjins remained deeply divided. It one village they were on opposite sides of the highway, and though everyone lived in the same village they did not dare to cross the street. Everyone could remember the terrible acts of violence and destruction done by those people on the other side of the road.
Over four years have passed, and in some places the divisions are still very deep. A new election is coming up, perhaps this year, early next year at the latest. People are anxious. Will there be more violence, more deaths, more homes destroyed, more people seeking shelter in the IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps that still dot the hillsides?
Wilson Gathungu is working for a different future, a future of hope. reconciliation. rehabilitation and healing. He was a seminary student at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City when Dr. Terry Rosell, his social ethics professor, challenged him to turn the peacemaking he wrote about in a paper into a project on the ground of his Kenyan homeland. So Wilson began the Peacemaking, Reconciliation And Rehabilitation Initiative (PRARI). Last year Sharon and I joined with the Rosell family in traveling to Kenya and working with Wilson in the Molo District (see my missionary journal "Raining on our Parade").
In June I went back to Kenya to work with Wilson on a follow-up reconciliation program in Mauche, on of the flash points in the violence. For three days we conducted a workshop in a small corrugated metal church along the dividing highway. Rev. Kones. the pastor of the church. had been in our workshop in 2011. He hosted the group of over 50 Kalenjins, Kikuyus and Maasais. We studied the Bible about peace together. We ate together out of a common serving pot. We danced together and praised God together.
On Sunday after worshiping in various churches, we gathered on the highway at the east end of town. All the workshop participants and various friends, family members and church members joined us. The Salvation Army band led the way as we processed through down, down the dividing highway to witness to our oneness in Christ and oneness in the determination to build a positive future. In a schoolyard at the center of town we held our rally. We preached about peace, sang about peace, recited poetry about peace, and danced for peace. At the end three doves were released by Kalenjin, Kikuyu and Maasai participants.
This was not a one-time event. It was an extension of the workshop we did in 2011. Wilson is engaging in continued grassroots efforts to build networks of community leaders who will stand together in a crisis. We were also delighted to see some of the reconciliation efforts to make peace at the grassroots.
At the west end of town as people spread out into the surrounding rural areas and farms, the memories of the violence were still there. But the folks who suffered the most in the fighting, in this case the Kalenjins, approached the elders among their enemies, the Kikuyus. They came with words of reconciliation and a hope for a project to bind them all together. Everyone needed decent water. There was a stream between the Kalenjins and the Kikuyus, but animals fouled the stream, and people were getting sick from the water. It took a few months for the trust to be built, but eventually they built a small dam to make a reservoir that they would all share. The safe drinking water comes from the reservoir, and the animals are watered downstream. Women do their washing together. The men work on tree nurseries together, reforesting their region. Kalenjins and Kikuyus are even picnicking together near the reservoir. So these folks eagerly came to join us for both the peace workshops and the march down the highway.
Division can be overcome, especially in Christ. But it doesn't happen by chance or accident. People must take the risks to start the process. like the Kalenjin elders who approached the Kikuyu elders, and like Wilson who left the seminary classroom to go to the flash points of political and tribal violence. That's what peace-making is all about. We don't stay out of trouble, but we go into the heart of the trouble and transform it through the grace, courage and persistence that Christ gives us.
Thank you for your prayers, your financial support, and your vision about doing Christ's work in our world today!
In peace and hope,