Wednesday, January 30, 2008

More about Kenya

The Christian Science Monitor has an excellent article, "How Kenya came undone." It is a two part article, but I think it does an excellent job helping us understand the economic causes for this situation.

One of the things that I've been saying to my close friends in the last few years is that terrorism is fueled by a lack of hope. People whose needs are being met, who feel safe, who feel optimistic about the future don't choose to blow themselves up to kill other people. People who are desperate, who feel that their situation will never change are easily targeted by terrorists for suicide missions. It is one reason I am praying that solutions can be found for the Palestinians, that they can finally have land to call their own. I think a Palestinian homeland would reduce a lot of the stresses and produce hope for its young people - hope for a better future.

One of the things that concerned me on my Africa trip was the difference in economic situation between the visitors to the safari lodges and the local people. Our visit was short, so there was no way for me to know how much of the tourist dollars we spent made it back down to the local village people. Surely some of it did - the villagers grow vegetables and they have family members who work at the safari lodges as cooks, laundry workers, maids, guides, guards (wild animals in the night) and bar tenders, etc. Cape Town was a prosperous area, but we saw signs that security was high. Things like jagged glass on top of brick and stone fences. And I saw either a market place or a shanty town as we drove to the airport that was a sharp contrast to the more prosperous dwellings elsewhere. But I don't know exactly what it was that I saw. We heard reports about the problems and lawlessness in Johannesburg cause in part by all the refuges from Zimbabwe.

But there is something else that concerns me in the news from Kenya. This sudden tribal warfare among people who had been living peacefully together is an echo from other places - Croatia, Rwanda, Germany. I've seen some other reports from Kenya that some of this violence may have been "planned" even before the election results. Sometimes it only takes a few people with evil hearts to stir up hatred, grudges, and a sense of injustice. When this happens, it can be like lighting a powderkeg.

I don't know how unfair the situation was for the Luos in Kenya, but I suspect that it only took a few people, maybe even just one, to foster a sense of anger and rage at perceived or real problems. But . . . once you unleash this force of human rage, it takes on a life of its own. And once people start to be killed, the anger, rage, sorrow, the need for revenge increases the fuel exponentially for these horrible tales of human atrocity.

We live in the United States, historically a very prosperous place. Now, more than ever, we have many groups of people from all over the world who have come to live here to take advantage of the opportunities. But nowhere on earth are things "perfect." There can be a sense of the "haves" and "have nots." The more that the American dream of starting with nothing and working your way up to a prosperous life can remain true, the safer our society will be. But politicians and other leaders need to be very careful. We have issues that divide us - real issues. We must be very careful in how we think and speak about the people that are from other cultures or ethnic groups around us. When we start thinking and believing that our lives are worse because of "them," that we don't have a job because of "them", we lost our job because of "them," resentment can grow in our hearts.

There is too much history over the last 100 years of what horrible things can happen when we start down the road of bitterness and resentment. We need to be encouraging people to get educated, to keep opportunities open for all people, and to foster unity among the diverse cultures -unity as Americans. This does not mean forsaking our native culture rather it means we need to appreciate the other cultures around us, but also to have our identity strongly linked with being American. Even with today's problems, we have a prosperous nation. We don't always realize this, but most of our poorest Americans have access to resources that the poor in other parts of the world don't. We need to continue our efforts to help people better their situations.

I would hate for America to have to face wide spread violence targeting either minorities or the wealthy. We think right now that what happened in Kenya could not happen here. And I hope not. But, I've read and heard too many stories from other parts of the world, where they thought it could not happen and it did.

Prayer thoughts for Kenya - Father, please let the leading politicians of both sides in Kenya and the mediators find a workable political solution. Please heal the hearts of the people who have lost loved ones to such horrible violent crimes. Help them find a way to forgive. Please bring peace and prosperity back to Kenya.

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