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March-April 2012

Vol. 37, No. 2


Kenya: Lent 2012, "Let light shine out of darkness"

The following piece, which reports on the ways the Catholic Church is preparing people for the next general election, was written by Fr. Joe Healey, MM, who lives and works in Nairobi.

Kenyan girl"We want to remind ourselves that we have a duty to transform Kenya into a country where human dignity, human rights, equity, responsibility and equality are the core values. This is the basis of the teaching of the [Catholic] Church. To be the light of the world and the salt of the earth we must familiarize ourselves with the social teaching of the Church." These challenging words of Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth, chair of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) in Kenya, are part of the preface of the booklet of the Kenya Lenten campaign that focuses on the 2012 national elections.

The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission was established in 1988 as an arm of the Kenya Catholic Bishops Conference. The annual Lenten Campaign is its best known program of justice and peace advocacy, peacebuilding and conflict resolution and transformative civic education. The overall theme for 2012 is Towards a transformed Kenya: Let light shine out of darkness.

Forty-five thousand copies in English and 15,000 copies in Swahili of the 40-page booklet have been distributed through Kenya. The themes of the five weeks of Lent are: Week 1 ("General elections: Our country, our leaders, our responsibility"); week 2 ("Food security"); week 3 ("Devolution"); week 4 ("Family"); and week 5 ("Peace and cohesion"). The booklet uses the process of the three steps of see, judge and act of the Pastoral Circle to reflect on concrete justice and peace issues in Kenya in relation to the Sunday Scripture Readings.

The campaign reaches the grassroots in Kenya through the over 40,000 Small Christian Communities (SCCs) that are mainly parish based and lectionary based. They meet in the middle of the week to read and reflect on the Gospel of the following Sunday. Highlights in the Lenten Campaign booklet are:

  • Analyzing and discussing the cartoon on page 8. The left panel depicts an overweight politician in Kenya carrying a bag labeled "Our time to eat" with money sticking out. He is thinking to himself "Vote buying. I'll give them money and buy them alcohol." The right panel shows a cross-section of people listening to a woman explaining her Party Manifesto. There is another drawing of a woman happily and freely voting.
    Reading the fictitious African story in Step One ("See"): "Another season is here for Songa Country" about good and bad politicians.
  • Reading part of the situational analysis in Step Two ("Judge"). This includes a quotation from Pope Benedict XVI's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africa's Commitment (Africae Munus) and other documents on the social teaching of the Catholic Church.
  • Reading the Gospel (Mark 1:12-15) and a scripture commentary. There is a clear parallel between the Devil tempting Jesus in the desert and politicians tempting Kenyan citizens to sell their votes.
  • Answering the five questions in Step Three ("Act") including: "How can you participate in the next general election as an individual/Small Christian Community/community? What is your role to ensure peaceful elections as an individual/Small Christian Community/community?"
Training sessions are being conducted throughout Kenya for Christians including SCC members on the process or methodology of the Lenten Campaign 2012 booklet. Train the Trainers workshops are being facilitated in the parishes and schools using the important new resource, Lent: Let light shine out of darkness -- Kenya Lenten Campaign Training Manual for Small Christian Communities, published by the Catholic Kenyan bishops' Justice and Peace Commission.

The exact date of the general election in Kenya has not been announced. It probably will be December 2012, but another possibility is March 2013. Through the active Lenten campaign and a widespread program of civic education, many Kenyans are getting better informed and will be ready to vote responsibly. To the post-election violence after the last general election in December 2007 Kenyan citizens are saying, "Never again." Let us hope they are right.

For further information visit the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, Kenya Episcopal Conference.

Two resources to consider:

  1. Never Again!. Nairobi: Ukweli Video Productions, 2011. 70 minutes documentary. NTSC and PAL. 500 Kenyan Shillings or $6. This video provides firsthand accounts of a number of Kenyans who were directly or indirectly affected by the 2007-08 post-election violence. Their stories are just but a tip of the iceberg, indeed a drop in the ocean, of what thousands of Kenyans experienced after the 2007 general elections The purpose of this DVD is to persuade all people of good will that never again should Kenya walk the path of the 2007-2008 post-election violence. It encourages people to be instruments of peace building. For further information see the Ukweli Video website. Highlights are found here on YouTube.
  1. Orobator, Agbonkhianmeghe E. (ed.), Reconciliation, Justice and Peace – the Second African Synod, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011 and Nairobi: Acton Publishers, 2011. French Edition to be co-published by CERAP and Khartala. 259 pages. Orbis Edition ($40). Acton Edition ($10). A collection of 20 essays by prominent African theologians, writers and Africanists on the themes of the 2009 Second African Synod such as corruption, ecclesial leadership, ecology, gender  justice, governance, HIV-AIDS, interreligious dialogue, reconciliation and Small Christian Communities.


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