As Jesus drew near the city, he wept, saying,
"If you, even you, had only recognized the things that make for peace!"
Worshipping this morning at the International Christian Fellowship of Nairobi, we prayed for peace in Kenya and the many areas of unrest and conflict throughout the world. From cities like Charlottesville to Kisumu, Juba to Kasai, and Caracas to Pyongyang, turmoil and escalating violence grip the lives of so many.
On Saturday, in the Nairobi slum of Mathare a large group of youth began hurling stones at police. It is unclear whether they were motivated by election protests that have mainly erupted in Western Kenya or if they were simply expressing anger towards the authority of increased police presence. Regardless of their motives, violence erupted and as the police chased the group through the narrow streets and allies, officers began firing live rounds into the air to "scare the hoodlums".
Tragically, an eight-year-old girl was killed. She was standing on a fourth-floor balcony over looking the spectacle taking place in the Mathare Market when she was hit by one of the stray police bullets. She died almost immediately.
Local human rights groups now report twenty-four deaths in Kenya from this past week's election unrest. The unrest has not been wide spread but has erupted mainly in strongholds of the opposition party, such as Kisumu, and in areas like Garissa where inter-clan fighting over the control of county government has resulted in a fire that destroyed the central market of the town.
Situations like these should be upsetting to the Church. But when we hear of the pain and suffering endured by others, how can we respond? I think that for many of us, the greatest temptation is to simply tune out and immerse ourselves in the diversion of our own personal interests and circles of friendship. Afterall, what can we do about sweeping issues like injustice, hunger, and poverty?
When Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem, he perceived the trajectory that the Zealot movement of redemptive violence was taking the city in. Jesus predicted how one day the Roman army would surround and destroy the city and its holy temple (this attack would happen in 70AD -- an attack sparked by a Jewish rebellion against Rome rule). "They will tear you to the ground," wept Jesus, "you and your children within you."
Prideful leadership only escalates violence. And sadly, it is the poor and marginalized that are most vulnerable in times of conflict and unrest. But simply ignoring the suffering of others is equally harmful.
As Christians, we are called to be light to the world. To speak and demonstrate the love and hope of God, even to our enemies and neighbours. The things that make for peace are often costly. They require us to take seriously the inequity and suffering of others. Humility, generosity, and courage to listen and seek justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation -- these things make for peace.
We know that many churches in Kenya and around the world are praying for peace this Sunday. May we also seek ways that we might actively participate in making peace through standing in solidarity with those who are pushed to the margins of our societies.