Kenya must remain example of reconciliation, says Archbishop Welby

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KENYA has been a “model for peace” since its independence and must remain an example of reconciliation to the world, the Archbishop of Canterbury said to its political leaders this week.

Archbishop Welby was preaching at the centenary celebrations of All Saints’ Cathedral, Nairobi, on Sunday, during a two-day visit to the country, hosted by the Primate of Kenya, the Most Revd Jackson Ole Sapit.

On Saturday, Archbishop Welby visited the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, at State House, Nairobi, the president’s official residence. After the service on Sunday, the Archbishop had talks with President Kenyatta and and the leader of the opposition, Raila Odinga — who both attended the service — to encourage reconciliation between the parties.

Speaking from Kenya on Tuesday, the Archbishop’s adviser for Anglican Communion Affairs, Bishop Anthony Poggo, said that the Archbishop had expressed his concern to the President about the situation in Kenya.

Last month, Kenya held a second election in as many months, by order of the Supreme Court of Kenya, after the court ruled that the first was not “consistent with the dictates of the constitution” and had it annulled (News, 8 September).

Archbishop Welby said in his sermon: “Since independence Kenya has been a model in Africa, without coups d’états, without civil war, with many problems and trials, but for the most part keeping the peace.

“Such an example is needed not only in this country, region, and continent, but over the whole world. There is a deep hunger for an example of great differences handled well. Kenya is the site of the first human beings. Can it be the site of the renewed human society that can learn reconciliation?”

He spoke of All Saints’ Cathedral’s presence through Kenyan history, the first Kenyan Primate, and “the great Archbishop Gitari”. He recalled the violent invasion of the cathedral by police during democracy demonstrations in 1997, after which the Church had held a ceremony of cleansing.

Cathedrals are more than museums of a “forgotten spiritual life” — they are witnesses to God at work in history, he said. “This building reminds us that Kenya is free, can argue, is able to disagree, can go to court, can demonstrate, can cheer its rulers or criticise them, because freedom is the gift of God.”

There has been a church on or near the site since the first Bishop of Mombasa, the Rt Revd William G. Peel, arrived in Nairobi in 1903, but the original church was moved, rededicated, and subsequently demolished and rebuilt elsewhere. The foundation stone for the cathedral as it stands was laid in February 1917, although a lack of funds meant that it was not completed until 1949.

“This building has existed for 100 years, and it has gathered memories,” Archbishop Welby said. “Cathedrals are a place of memories, of promises and hopes. Think of the history that has passed it by. It was built in the early years of the colonial regime, and stood above the demonstrations for Independence and then the violence of the Emergency, as a nation called for independence, for freedom, and the right to choose its own future.”

Archbishop Welby also met a delegation from South Sudan, led by Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, to encourage peace in the region, Bishop Poggo said. “The Archbishop has particular concern for South Sudan and was keen to hear from the leaders ways for achieving peace there.”

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