By Eden Grace, Africa Ministries Office field staff
In late December 2007, most Kenyans were surprised and shocked when the disputed presidential election sparked widespread chaos and violence. Kenyans see themselves as peaceful people and think of their country as a haven of stability in a rough neighborhood. Over the previous decade, Kenyans had looked at Rwanda, Sudan and Somalia and said to themselves “that could never happen here.”
The soul-searching that was provoked by the post-election violence of 2007-08 affected all aspects of society, including the church. For Friends, it sparked a significant revival of the Peace Testimony, which had previously been seen as something of a luxury — a legitimate concern for rich country Friends but, for Africans, secondary to the urgent work of poverty eradication. Suddenly, the message of the Prince of Peace and the imperative of Christians to work for peace and non-violent reconciliation were at the very heart of the gospel.
Friends Theological College has played a critical role in sustaining and equipping the interest of Kenyan Friends in the Peace Testimony. From providing Bible studies and sermon outlines to pastors, to offering new academic courses in peace studies, to volunteering with the Friends Church Peace Team, the college has become a center for this important work of reclaiming and contextualizing the Peace Testimony for Kenyans today.
As Kenya looks forward to the next national election in late 2012 or early 2013 (date yet to be determined), Friends are cautiously optimistic that the country will avoid renewed violence. The political leadership may still try to provoke inter-ethnic conflict, but Kenyans today know that they must resist such provocation, that their social grievances will not be solved through violent conflict, that what they saw when they looked in the mirror in January 2008 is not who they want to be. We invite all Friends everywhere to stand with Kenyan Friends in intercessory prayer for a peaceful election this year.