week 3 of Lent

The term started well at Mawiano Primary School, with a good number of pupils reporting on the first days. They were happy to meet again after long school holidays.

At lunch time, pupils ran to the dining hall and queued to be served food as was the tradition. As Sitakia, a class seven pupil, walked towards her seating position in the dining hall, Amanita, a class six pupil, accidentally knocked her and the food spilt. Sitakia cried loudly as if a pan of boiling water had been poured on her. She cried uncontrollably. Amanita’s efforts to calm her and apologise fell on deaf ears and, instead, Sitakia became even louder. The teacher on duty intervened and contained the situation. But the issue did not end there.

The following morning, Sitakia’s parents stormed the school demanding to know what had happened. Before the teacher could intervene, Sitakia’s mother’s voice was all over the room: “Where is the pupil who poured my child’s food? Where is she?”

Before the teacher could calm Sitakia’s mum, her father quipped: “It seems like you people do not know whom you are dealing with; my family can feed this school for a whole year without feeling a pinch, our tribe is to be handled with care.” Sitakia’s parents left without giving teachers the chance to intervene. The matter did not end there.
Since the two families come from the same neighbourhood, Sitakia’s parents confronted Amanita’s parents after spreading claims that what happened to their daughter was planned and their tribe was targeted. What began at school became an ethnic issue. As a result the two communities developed hatred and could not see eye to eye. This eventually caused community development projects to collapse since joint meetings that were being held by the two communities no longer took place and common views were no longer forthcoming. Since this split was injuring community development, the area chief and the village elders called for a peace and reconciliation meeting.

After a long struggle to establish the truth and possible solutions, the communities agreed to never again be divided again on tribal lines. They came up with a common vision for peace and development, which helped them to live peacefully with each other. They discovered that united they stand and divided they fall.

JUDGE

Situational analysis

The story of Mawiano Primary School demonstrates how the Kenyan society suffers from identity formation. Conflict based on diverse cultural identities has continued to be a frequent occurrence in various parts of the world, especially in Africa. Kenya is one of the countries that have experienced ethnic conflicts in the recent past. In situations such as the ones presented by the conflict between the two families, it is questionable whether their fight is ethnic or because of some other hidden factors.

The question of how culture and identity shape people’s view on conflict are very similar questions in the Kenyan context, and have their roots in their tribal identity. One of the key drivers of conflict in Kenya is the dimension of community identities – which is in itself closely related to the issue of land, borders and associated historical grievances – plus a challenging regional security environment and political transition. As we implement the constitution, a significant shift might occur in the context of devolution to widen the difference among ethnic communities in Kenya causing rifts between and among groups in cosmopolitan counties. If devolution process is mismanaged and groups in different counties feel dissatisfied, ethnicity could become a basis for some counties to demand for self-determination, especially in counties that are endowed with natural resources.

Conflict as demonstrated in the story can occur at institutions like schools and community levels. The primary and key player in solving this conflict is the family. We require our children to grow up knowing that apart from our different ethnic backgrounds, we are all one family, children of God and we share one gift of being human beings. It is important that parents should instil in their children the sense of responsibility towards each other since we are “created in the image and likeness of God” and “we are all one”. As parents we need to socialize our children to acquire national identity and be patriotic Kenyans.

If need to salvage our country as Kenyan, there is need to cherish more the diversity of every Kenyan communities than ethnic prejudices. Therefore, Schools, Churches and other social settings should be used as a platform of educating our children and all people the need to unite at all levels. Teachers should use the opportunity they have to drive the fact to the children that no one community can stand alone without others. It is in unity that we stand while divided we fall.

First Reading: Exodus 17:3-7

Second Reading: Romans 5:1-2.5-8

Gospel: John 4:5-42

In the first reading, we see the Israelites being tempted to go back to Egypt. They had just forgotten the humiliation they underwent. But Moses assures them that God is always present. Being at one with Moses was very crucial for them to face the life in the desert. God has given us the Holy Spirit as a sign for his love. This requires us to always listen to the Spirit of God and live according to God’s plan. We can no longer pretend that our actions of disunity are not seen by God. Just like the Samaritan woman, God knows our every thought and actions. (See Psalms 139)

ACT QUESTIONS

1. As parents, community and the Church how do we help our children to acquire positive values and appreciate the different ethnic communities in Kenya?

2. What can we do as a family, Small Christian Community, the Church or a community to promote unity as a national value?

3. What are some of the actions that can be done at Small Christian Community, Parish, Dioceses and National levels to promote unity, patriotism, and peace in Kenya?

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