Church leaders, individuals, ecumenical organizations, and persons with disabilities and their organizations gathered under the theme “You shall love the Lord your God…and your neighbour as yourself.”
“I want to commend those who came up with the theme…It is rich, it is timely, and it is viable; it applies to us,” said Rt. Rev. Patrick Thegu Mutahi, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa to the gathering. “The passages we read capture generosity, kindness, and magnanimity...Generally, [these] are spiritual, natural, and traditional, yet people are not practising them.
Mutahi said kindness and generosity opened many doors in the communities, but people found it difficult to practice the qualities due to reasons including greed, self-serving pursuits, and ignorance.
“We do not have to be unkind because we are seeking power and positions...because we want to get that position, and when we think people are blocking, we step on their toes…I wish we knew how temporary these positions are,” said the moderator.
Teams from the Catholic Archdiocese of Ouagadougou, Protestant Churches, ecumenical bodies and the Chemin Neuf Community in Burkina Faso—a West African country in the Sahel Region—drafted the prayers and reflections for the week.
The country of 21 million people—64 percent Muslims, 26 percent Christian, and nine percent followers of African traditional religions—has witnessed a rise in terrorist attacks, lawlessness, and human trafficking.
The occurrences have left at least 3,000 dead and almost two million internally displaced persons, as thousands of schools, health centres, and town halls remained closed. The violence has also destroyed most of the country’s socio-economic and transport infrastructure.
The terrorists attacked churches, forcing shutdown of those in the north. Priests, pastors, and catechists have been killed during worship.
However, Christian, Muslim, and traditional religions in the country, have been working in solidarity to find lasting solutions for peace, social cohesion, and reconciliation to the country’s problem.
In Nairobi, church leaders shared a “calabash” as a symbol of welcome, hospitality, and fellowship. In Burkina Faso, families use a calabash to share water with guests who arrive tired from their journey.
Rev. Isaiah Obare of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya said the theme and the ecumenical prayer were a call on Christians to practice the Christian ethos of character, credibility, and moral values in all circumstances.
“Even though today is a one-day event, the theme shall remain as our Christian compass through 2024,” Obare, current chair of the International Ecumenical Movement-Kenya chapter, wrote in an introduction of the booklet for the celebrations.