Orthodox Christians face violence following contested Presidential Elections in Kenya
The New Year began with tragedy for many people in Kenya as widespread violence erupted on December 27th in the wake of contested presidential elections between incumbent President, Mwai Kibaki, and challenger Raila Odinga.
Reports coming in from all over Kenya are painting a vivid picture of growing unrest and escalating conflict. According to Reuters, over 300 people have already died in the clashes between rival factions and the police. The Kenyan capital city of Nairobi houses the Makarios III Patriarchal Seminary and St. George Orthodox Church lies nearby in the heart of the Kibera slums – the largest in Africa and a flash point for much of the recent violence. In a phone conversation with OCMC Executive Director, Fr. Martin Ritsi, His Eminence, Archbishop Makarios of Kenya indicated that many homes of Orthodox Christians in Kibera have been burned, and displaced residents in the area are seeking safety and shelter within the confines of the St. George Orthodox Church compound. He states that three churches (not Orthodox) have been razed in Kibera thus far, and similar instances have been seen in Western Kenya as well. The Archbishop went on to report that several Orthodox priests had seen their homes destroyed losing everything to fires set by angry mobs. Some of these priests are now taking refuge at the seminary which has been temporarily closed. Food has become scarce in Nairobi and people are staying home fearing continued troubles.
Before hanging up, His Eminence urged calm and encouraged all Orthodox Christians to pray for peace in Kenya. May the people of Kenya, guided by the Holy Spirit, find this peace through unity in a common Father and by the mercies of His only begotten son Jesus Christ.