Mission Agency Expresses Great Concern for
Kenya in Wake of Violent Confrontations
The General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church and I, as its interim general secretary, are greatly concerned about the political chaos and violence that erupted in Kenya at the start of the New Year. Our concern and our prayers incorporate the welfare of the country and its people, the churches, and the Methodist and United Methodist congregations, pastors, missionaries, mission volunteers, other church personnel, and church related institutions.
Let me quickly report that as of January 4, all United Methodist missionaries assigned to Kenya and other denominational representatives in the country were safe. This includes a United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) team.
We remember with compassion the families of the more than 300 persons who were killed in the days immediately after the violence began on December 30, 2007. Our thoughts and our offers of assistance are with the some 100,000 persons who fled their homes, some becoming refugees in Rwanda, to escape violence that broke out following the disputed reelection of President Mwai Kibaki.
We, as a Christian organization as followers of the Prince of Peace, appeal to all parties to the political and ethnic disagreements to put peace and reconciliation ahead of personal or party gains. Africa and the world cannot afford a civil war in Kenya, which has for years been a place of stability and economic prosperity in the volatile East Africa region.
I commend United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his quick attention to the situation, and I join with him and with the Rev. Samuel Kobia, a Kenyan who is general secretary of the World Council of Churches, in their calls for a negotiated settlement to the issues separating the opposing groups. I have a long personal association with Kenya and its strong Methodist heritage, and I have an enormous place in my heart for its people, especially the youth and children.
Five of our missionaries in Kenya were out of the country at the time that the conflict started. The Rev. Chung Suk Song and his wife, Hyung Ran Song, assigned to Mombasa, were safe in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, where they had gone to take their children to boarding school.
Missionary John Calhoun and his wife, Noel, who works for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Nairobi, and their young sons were scheduled to return from Atlanta, Georgia, to Kenya in early January. Yema and Lahi Luhahi, a nurse and teacher respectively, were also due to return in the same time period after concluding mission itineration in the United States. William and Jerri Savuto, who serve at the Maua Methodist Hospital in Maua, were in the US for a Christmas visit, with plans to return to Kenya later in January. While travel delays may result, all missionaries are expected to resume their work in Kenya.
We were pleased to receive news that a United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) team, which left for Kenya on December 28, 2007, is safe in Nairobi. This team, led by Gregory Forrester, UMVIM coordinator for the Northeastern Jurisdiction, was due to remain in Kenya until January 11, 2008. We also understand that a Cursillo team from the Mississippi Annual Conference was safe at Kabarak University, near the city of Nakuru, and had completed its program, called a pilgrimage.
Methodism has been in Kenya for some 145 years, arriving with British missionaries. The Methodist Church of Kenya grew through support from both Great Britain and the United States. That church, which became autonomous in 1967, is a long-time mission partner of the General Board of Global Ministries and today has 500,000 members. The Rev. Dr. Stephen Kanyaru M’Impwii is presiding bishop of the Methodist Church of Kenya.
The United Methodist Church and the Global Ministries are also represented in Kenya by a United Methodist community, established in the latter years of the 20th century by refugees from other parts of East Africa. Those congregations and ministries are part of the East Africa Annual Conference led by Bishop Daniel Wandabula, who is based in Kampala, Uganda.
Over its long history, the Methodist Church of Kenya has started many social, health, and educational institutions that serve the entire society. Violent confrontations always threaten the operation of these valuable ministries. Institutions of mercy and education are much in our prayers for peace.
Its strategic location and recent political stability makes Kenya a natural gateway for church supplies and services moving into East Africa. For example, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) depends upon Kenyan facilities for receiving and transporting relief supplies into Sudan and other countries of East Africa. Regrettably, the pent up party and tribal competition expressed in post-election violence threatens more than Kenya alone.
UMCOR will initially respond to the humanitarian crisis in Kenya in collaboration with the ecumenical Action by Churches Together (ACT). Information will be supplied separately on ways to support this ministry.
As I told Bishop Wandabula in an email message and said to missionary John Calhoun in a telephone conversation on January 3, we want to help care for those who are hurting and we also want to call Methodists and United Methodists to be “peacemakers above all” in the name of Jesus Christ.
Bishop Felton E. May
Date posted: Jan 04, 2008