|WCC leader calls for end to violence in Kenya|
By United Methodist News Service
Jan. 2, 2008
The Rev. Samuel Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya who leads the World Council of Churches, is calling upon both political parties and the churches to end the violence sparked by recent elections in that East African nation.
The Rev. Samuel Kobia
Disputes over the re-election of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki have, by some estimates, led to the deaths of several hundred people, including up to 50 who died Jan. 1 in a church that was set on fire in western Kenya.
In his Jan. 2 statement, Kobia noted that people in Kenya and around the world are "appalled and concerned" by the killings, beatings and burnings.
"Now is the time for leadership and statesmanship for the good of the nation from the leaders of Kenya's two main parties, the Party of National Unity and the Orange Democratic Movement," he declared. "As leaders, they must turn urgently from partisan postures and negotiate in good faith to reach a nonviolent, political solution to Kenya's electoral dispute."
Kobia joined the call for an independent investigation of the election, to be monitored by international observers.
He also called "on the churches of Kenya to do their part in pursuing the common good of their communities and country."
"Churches have a leading role to play in ensuring respect for human life and seeking reconciliation between neighbors," he said. "This is especially urgent amid ominous signs of ethnically targeted hatred and violence. Homes, businesses, public buildings and places of worship must remain safe."
Churches stand ready
The church-burning incident occurred in the city of Eldoret. According to the Associated Press, dozens were burned alive as they sought refuge in the Assemblies of God church from the violence outside. At least half were children, according to the BBC. The victims were Kikuyu, members of the country's largest ethnic group, which includes the current president. The opposition candidate, Rail Odinga, is from the smaller Luo tribe.
As the leader of a worldwide ecumenical body, Kobia appealed to his constituency "to provide humanitarian aid through ecumenical partners in Kenya to communities affected by the violence. We would like to assure the churches and people of Kenya that the World Council of Churches stands ready to support the process of dialogue and reconciliation that is now necessary."
The United Methodist Church is a major supporter of the council, which has offices in Geneva.
Kobia pointed out that "the violent perversion of public life in Kenya" was not acceptable at New Year's or any other time.
"After the immediate measures are taken, and while the current troubles are still fresh in the nation's mind, it will be necessary to have a frank and thorough appraisal of underlying constitutional and electoral issues that have damaged previous Kenyan elections as well as this one," he said.
"We register this concern now in order to strengthen the rule of law, improve governance and save lives in Kenya in the future."
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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