By John Muhanji
This is a difficult question, yet I see evidence of hope living in the midst of evil quite a bit in Kenya. Africa has had a long history of leaders that demonstrate little regard for human life and the sanctity of life. It seems their respect for the people they serve is held with as much regard as trash that is dumped in the bin. No matter how loudly the people cry, the more destruction and attacks these leaders inflict on the people. Yet, in the midst of the atrocities experienced, the people of Kenya bravely hope for a better future. It does appear irrational to believe that people will always stand firm, unshaken when faced with extreme evil. However, those who place their hope in Christ find peace.
In November 2012, a humanitarian crisis unfolded near the town of Goma. It was said nearly 50,000 people fled their homes ahead of the approaching M23 rebels and the Congolese army. Chaos erupted. Women were raped and killed, men savagely attacked and killed, and children were forced to be soldiers or were used as shields on the war’s frontline. It doesn’t seem like hope could even have a chance in the midst of this evil. Why run when you will be found and abused? Is there any element of hope here?
The hope is in the possibility of finding safety and in finding a way back home. When I visited the Congo in 2007 and came face to face with people who lived in the refugee camps in Tanzania, I saw confident and happy people rebuilding their homes and lives afresh. Hope was in the face of evil. Like Daniel and his companions who were threatened with death if they didn’t worship the gods of Baal, the people of Kenya never gave up hope in the God of their salvation.
It seems evident that hope is strongest and best exercised in the midst of evil. For it is when times are darkest that people look to find salvation. Hope is an immovable force allowing a person to stand ready to proclaim victory in Christ. A person with hope is said to be anchored, firm and secure (Hebrews 6:19). No matter what atrocities are faced, security is firm when anchored in the hope of God.
The lead-up to the most recent election brought many incidents of evil attacks against the average citizen of Kenya. The attacks were felt from all angles with the purpose of discouraging as many people from voting. Yet the opposite effect occurred. The more hurdles or obstacles that were created, the more hope increased and the more people bravely ventured out to vote.
In Mombasa and Kihifi counties just before the voting station doors were to open, 12 people were killed. Immediately the police declared that these attacks were staged by an Islamic group called the Mombasa Republican Council, whose members have been against the election and who demanded secession from Kenya. Despite the deaths and the skirmishes, the Kenyan people from these areas voted in large numbers. Their hope for new leadership did not fade away. They profoundly hope this election will herald a new group of leaders who will end the cruel acts against humanity and lead Kenya to a better future.
The Kenyan people are a people of hope. They believe God hears them and will deliver them out of their troubles (Psalm 34:17). They know the good news of Christ is that, “Every tear will be wiped away from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) With news such as this, how does one not live in hope?
Throughout the continent, Africans have embedded a theology that provides hope as evil is faced. When fighting the “good fight” (I Timothy 6:12), our foe, fierce as he may be, is a defeated foe. Jesus has victory over sin and death. He is our hope, the hope of our nation.
John Muhanji serves FUM as the director of Africa Ministries. He works with yearly meetings by carrying out leadership workshops and helping meetings facing conflicts. He works with leaders of Quaker churches in Kenya and offers counsel to other mission areas in East Africa. He spends a great deal of time traveling to visit these meetings, which has allowed FUM to be felt in the Africa meetings.