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Kenyan Muslims, Christians Vow To Prevent Violence

Photo Credit Getty Imagesby Tom Odula
from The Huffington Post

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenyan clerics across the religious divide vowed Tuesday to not allow sectarian violence to erupt following attacks on churches over the weekend that killed at least 15 people.

The Inter-Religious Council of Kenya said Muslims will form vigilante groups alongside Christians to guard churches in Kenya’s North Eastern Province, where the latest attacks occurred.

Adan Wachu, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims and the chairman of Inter-Religious Council, said the weekend attacks, which are being blamed on an al-Qaida-linked militant group from Somalia, are meant to trigger sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims. Wachu said clerics will actively preach against retaliation to prevent violence from spreading in Kenya like it has in Nigeria, where attacks on churches by a Muslim sect has ignited a spiral of violence.

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Global Peace Initiative of Women Convenes Environmental Conference in Kenya

UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner with some of the women religious leaders at the conference Religious and community leaders meet to discuss solutions for sustainable development.

from the United Nations Environmental Programme

Nairobi (Kenya) 2 March 2012. The Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW), a non-governmental organization of contemplative leaders based in the United States, held today an environmental conference at the headquarters of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi.

The meeting, entitled Awakening the Healing Heart, focused on how civil society, especially women and religious leaders, can mobilize awareness and action to protect the environment and promote sustainable development.

The challenges facing the environment today has created a new urgency within faith communities to build a global consciousness around sustainable development. An international delegation from the GPIW conference will form part of the inter-faith component attending the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil in June 2012.

The meeting brought together over 300 women religious and community leaders, environmentalists and advocates from 28 countries and from all the major faith traditions, including among others H.H. Shinso Ito, head priest of Shinnyo-en, Japan; Reverand Dr. Celestin Musekura, founder of African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries, Rwanda/USA; Ms. Wang Yongchen, founder of Green Earth Volunteers, China and Dr. Sakeena Yacoobi, founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning.

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Nigerian Imam and Pastor Lead Peace Efforts in Kenya

From The Washington Post,

Muhammad Ashafa (left) and James Wuye (right)

Muhammad Ashafa (left) and James Wuye (right)

The unlikely and inspiring Nigerian duo Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye were in Switzerland last week at the Caux Forum for Human Security. Their partnership is unlikely because they were militia leaders on opposite sides of the conflict in northern Nigeria and lost not only friends but parts of their own bodies as combatants (James wears his artificial arm proudly). It is inspiring because they are powerful exemplars of the possibility of reconciliation.

Pastor James and Imam Ashafa were at Caux to launch a film called An African Answer (it will be released in September). An earlier film, The Imam and the Pastor, told the story of how they overcame their own hatred and joined forces, and their subsequent joint work in Nigeria. The new film is about their work in Kenya to help dampen the fires of violence that erupted there after the 2007 election.

Kenya’s conflicts are centered on ethnic differences, not religious ones. So the imam and the pastor approached local communities in Eldoret not in their religious roles but as specialists in conflict resolution.

The film is instructive, showing how the duo went about their work. Each man led a group of one of the ethnic communities, the Kalenjins and Kikiyus. They first undertook a classic effort to draw out some positive views each held of the other. Then they delved into the grievances, and there were plenty. Land topped the list, but there was also much resentment about attitudes and respective tendencies to stick to their own communities, including separate Christian churches.

The first visit seemed to bring some greater consciousness of the complexities of the sources of conflict and produced a committee with a mandate to monitor the fragile peace. A second visit some months later delved deeper and sought ideas for common action. A plan to unify the ethnically separated markets in a town emerged.

And then, the film shows, members of the communities wrote down their grievances on pieces of paper and burned them in a ceremonial fire. This ritual was aimed at catharsis and symbolized a commitment to consign the bitterness of past hurts and longstanding grievances to the flames.

The two Nigerians seemed to lead the Christian reconciliation rituals without a trace of concern for religious difference – indeed a sense pervades the images that the unifying power of faith is far greater than any specific difference in beliefs or teachings. Forgiveness, love of neighbor, and commitment to address and resolve conflicts were powerful bonds.

A jarring but realistic feature of the film is the dominance of men. Women play only marginal roles. That’s an honest reflection of the social norms in the communities concerned and is another reminder of how important it is to bring women into central roles in work for peace. They have so much to offer.

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