Love Conquers Evil
Sr. Miriam reports on her recent visit to our Sisters in Nairobi and Nakuru Area
In the midst of all the troubles, Missionaries, Church groups, NGO’s and many local people responded to help the people affected. Side by side with the terrible atrocities great good was being evoked. I was privileged to join in with my Franciscan Sisters in Nairobi, Nakuru and Kiamiana. Thanks to grants received from the Irish Missionary Resource Services, and donations received from friends and relatives the Sisters were able to help many distressed people. The following are a few of the human stories encountered along the way.
At Kariobangi Sr Ivanna and four young volunteers were busy with a feeding programme for people in one of the nearby camps. They identified people in need in the camps and gave them cards to come to the Cheshire home to collect food rations and clothing. Long queues came each day and many families were also helped to find alternative accommodation enabling them to move from the harsh conditions of the camp and to have some normality back in their lives. On one of the visits to the camp I met a woman who gave birth to triplets on the night the clashes started, and two hours later had to run with the three newborn babies. Her house and business were burned, but through the efforts of Sr. Ivanna and her group they were able to find another home for them.
Sr. Teresa Rafferty was working tirelessly to help the Internally displaced school children, finding places for them in other schools, and providing uniforms and books, as well as seeing that the children who had witnessed a great deal of trauma were getting the help they needed.
In Mathare and Korogocho many houses were burned and many people displaced. Sr. Lydia and her team of devoted teachers and social workers had gathered hundreds of young children into make shift schools and were providing them with meals and schooling and therapy. The children felt secure in school and were being helped to speak about their bad experiences through art and story telling. It was with Lydia that I met Ester, who at 3.am had to run with her five children leaving everything behind as her house and tailoring business was burned to the ground. Sr. Lydia rented a small house for her and gave her the gift of a sewing machine, and commissioned her to make uniforms for the new arrivals, the displaced children. Within a day Ester was back in business with a big smile on her face.
Sr Dr Kathleen O’Sullivan who works at AMANI Counselling Centre as well as in Kabeira was inundated with people looking for counselling or groups wanting to know how to handle the crisis within their work place or college. One of the uplifting stories I heard from Kathleen was that of a Luo man who was surrounded by gang of Kikuyu men who were about to kill him, when a Kikuyu woman threw her arms around him and began in her own language to plead for her husband’s life. The Gang listened to the woman pleas, and let the man go free. He was not her husband but love for neighbour saved the man’s life.
In Kiamiana- one of our rural missions- I found Srs. Deirdre and Pauline busy supplying food to many displaced people who came to St Michael’s Parish for help. They had fled from areas in the rift Valley such as Black Forrest, Molo and Kericho where their homes had been burned. Likewise in Kiamiana I saw many homesteads, which had been destroyed. There I met a man who told me that 26 people had come to his house looking for shelter. We also visited the Show Grounds where 13,000 people were in tents, often with ten people to one small tent. There I met a woman carrying an 18-month-old baby who had bad burns on his face and both his hands badly burned. Her home had been torched and by the time she got to the baby his cot was already on fire. An elderly Granny who had spent all her days as a tea picker in Kericho was still shocked and in disbelief at the things that had happened.
At one outstation we came across a man in a wheel chair who had been pushed for miles by kind neighbours as they fled for safety. With Sr. Ann and Fr Vincent we travelled to Molo and the Total Petrol Station areas where a lot of destruction and burning of houses and properties had taken place. People in the town were very fearful, as there were rumours of further attacks.
A very moving experience for me was when we attended the months mind Mass for Fr Michael who had been brutally murdered during the clashes. It was held at the very spot where he had been murdered. During the Mass Bishop Kairo of Nakuru pleaded for non-violence and an end to tribalism. After the Mass the Chief of the area came forward and apologised for what had happened in that area and asked forgiveness on behalf of the people who had carried out the murder. A Cross was erected at the site. In Nakuru with Sr. Patricia and her staff we visited all three camps, as the Kikuyu were in a camp in the Show Grounds, the Luo were in the Stadium, and the Kalenjin at the Chief’s centre. All were suffering, fearful and wondering what the future held. Many had begun to realise that those seeking political power had used them, and felt ashamed of what had happened.
Sr. Patricia and her team identified and collected people living with HIV from the different camps and brought them to Love and Hope Centre, where people of different tribes shared their stories, prayed and ate together. During the sharing an elderly man stood up and said, “ when I was sixteen years of age I joined the Kenya army to defend my country Kenya, never thinking of a particular tribe, my wife is a Kalenjin, and I am a Kikuyu, from different tribes, but no politics or tribalism will break our forty years of love together. I had to run, my house and property burned, losing glasses, identity card, everything, and all I have felt is the shirt and trousers I stand up, but I still ask of you to forget tribalism, forgive one another, we are all God’s children”
I was very impressed by the staff of Love and Hope, all were from different tribes, and yet they were working tirelessly to help people irrespective of their tribe, giving out food, finding accommodation, helping people with income generation projects, living the Gospel values of love of neighbour.
After weeks of negotiation an agreement has been signed between the different political parties. We pray and hope that the political Leaders will take on board what Kofi Annan said, “You have to work together as one Government, and address the underlying issues of Land, Tribalism, Corruption, Poverty and Unemployment if Kenya has to go forward”. Much needs to be done to bring about forgiveness and healing. It will take time. It is a wake up call to deepen our Christian values knowing that Love overcomes all evil.
Sr. Miriam Duggan FMSA