Claretian missionary reports on post-election violence in Kenya

As the election crisis in Kenya continued Claretian Missionaries around the world received an update from one of their own, Kenyan native Father Robert Omondi, C.M.F. in Mombassa.

"We are as shocked by the recent post-election violence as you are," Omondi writes. "It never occurred to us that it could degenerate into what we are seeing now." Omondi has studied ethnic conflict and has worked with Rwandese, Burundian, and Congolese refugees. "I know firsthand what 'escalated conflict' means," he writes. In terms of the outbreak of violence in Kenya now, he says, nothing is impossible, "including something akin to ethnic cleansing." Because of its role as Kenya's major seaport, Mombassa over the years has evolved into a major regional cultural center, collecting Chrstian and Muslim communities from all of the region tribes.

"We have started a small program for getting food to the internally displaced with the youths of our parish," Omondi reports. "We started a door-to-door campaign telling people that they have something to share with our affected brethren. We have made them believe that we need not wait for supplies from the West for as Africans we are identified with the value of hospitality and sharing.

"The response is good and we thank God for that. We had some tensions around our parish, but things are getting better now. I have used every chance to exhort the people to refrain from violence." He calls the current crisis a challenge to all Christian ministers in Kenya.

"Is there any indication that we address Christians on Sundays? Do they believe in God and Jesus Christ? Do they believe in the Word of God or more importantly are we as ministers believable? Do we need to step up our pastoral approach or to change it altogether. Sometimes I feel like all ministers from all religions should all go for a retreat, a long one for that matter, and ask themselves very realistic, embarrassing, but important questions.

"We will not lose hope," Omondi writes, but "we have to acknowledge what has already happened. It would be unfortunate if we assume that we are truly effectively ministering to a people who can change into near monsters in such a short time."

The disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki has unleashed widespread violence across Kenya. The Catholic Church in Kenya has called for calm between the supporters of Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga and dialogue between the two leaders. The Kenyan Bishops have also urged that an electoral commission review the election results.

Caritas International reports that the political crisis in Kenya has driven over 100,000 people from their homes in search of security, and more than 500 have been reported killed. A number of towns are totally cut off, as many major roads are barricaded by various communities who are denying access. There is also concern at continuing reports of killings by police. Many of the displaced people are in cathedrals and churches seeking safety, and Caritas is providing them with help. Many others are locked up in their homes with dwindling supplies of food and water.—Kevin Clarke

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