Adventist Leaders Appeal For Calm in Kenya
Staff, students at Adventist university among those caught up in crisis

, ANN, and Victor Hulbert, British Union Conference, with AR Staff

eventh-day Adventists are joining the international community in expressing concern over violence in Kenya that has reportedly left 300 people dead and 100,000 displaced in the wake of presidential election disputes. At least one Adventist is reported among those killed, while students and staff at church-owned University of East Africa, Baraton have been caught up in the crisis, with the campus reportedly under siege by various local militias.

Kenyan Adventists across the United Kingdom and Ireland are inviting church members to join them in praying for the situation back in their home country following the outbreak of violence there. Pastor Michael Mbui, a Kenyan pastor serving in the London area is coordinating prayer and keeping in contact with the situation in Kenya. "This is a very sad time for me," he said. "While I recognize that it is another indication of the times we live in, it is still not what I expect to see in people, however aggrieved they are."

CALL FOR CALM: Matthew Bediako, world church executive secretary, called for reconciliation following recent violence in Kenya. In his statement, to be broadcast by the church's Hope Channel, Bediako also urged Adventists to exemplify the unity and forgiveness necessary to restore calm to the country. [Photo: Rajmund Dabrowski/ANN]
Tribal groups believed to have been supporting the president and living in opposition strongholds are fearing for their lives following the violence that has escalated following this week's disputed election results. The father  of an Adventist pastor was killed in the Njoro area of Rift Valley. Many, including individual members of the Seventh-day Adventist church are calling for calm and are working to prevent a further deterioration in the situation.

In a January 3 statement, Adventist world church Executive Secretary Matthew A. Bediako appealed to Kenyan "political leaders, heads of religious communities, traditional leaders and peace-loving people to come together and find ways to promote reconciliation." The appeal will be televised on the church's Hope Channel.

"Resorting to violence only creates victims, many of whom are innocent children," Bediako said. "As a Christian church, we also urge all Kenyans to value solidarity and the Biblical principles of peacemaking, forgiveness and reconciliation above ethnic loyalties."

Bediako also appealed to Adventist leaders and members to be examples in promoting unity.

Church leaders in Kenya report that about 250 students, staff and faculty at Adventist-owned University of Eastern Africa, Baraton took refuge at a nearby police station after officers escorted them on December 31 from the campus, which was surrounded by a mob. The refugees were from the Kikuyu, Kamba, Meru, and Kisi tribes, university chaplain Caesar Wamalika told the British Broadcasting Corporation.

“We have been having daily threats from the crowds of people outside the campus,” Wamalika said. “It is a nightmare to meet them. All of them are armed with machetes, bows and arrows. Some are drunk and others baying for blood. I have never seen anything like this. One needs to be diplomatic when speaking to them.”

Roads to the airport have been blocked by mobs and the workers remain at the police station, said Geoffrey Mbwana, president of the Adventist Church's Nairobi-based East-Central Africa Division. At press time, preparations were underway to transport them to Nairobi.

A Kenyan official said violence has only affected about 3 percent of the country's 34 million people, according to media reports. However, that violence has been at times unusually severe: In Eldoret, another town in the Rift Valley about 119 miles from Njoro, an arson fire at the Kenya Assemblies of God church killed more than 25 people who had taken refuge in the sanctuary. The victims were members of the Kikuyu tribe, from which Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki also hails. Kenyan police are reportedly investigating an unnamed “opposition politician” in connection with the arson, according to a news agency report.

"As a faith community we strongly believe in prayer," Bediako said to church members. "We therefore invite our brothers and sisters around the world to bring before God's throne the people of Kenya, and other regions where there are crises. We pray that calm will be restored throughout Kenya, and throughout the world."

There are more than 560,000 Adventists worshiping in approximately 7,000 congregations and small groups throughout Kenya.

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