“Forgive them! Forgive them!”

Sunday at the burnt out Lutheran church we blogged about last weekend, from the Los Angeles Times:

In Nairobi’s slum district of Kibera, people prayed for peace Sunday under the charred cross and blackened walls of the burned Lutheran church. But in the narrow alleys just 100 yards away, the thugs with machetes still rule.

When the service ended, the parishioners in their Sunday best walked home through neighborhoods still teetering on a knife’s edge.
. . . . . . . . .

More than 300 people have died in the violence.

When one parishioner, Rebecca Muthoni, a 38-year-old Kikuyu, plodded to the Lutheran church Sunday, her heart was heavy. Muthoni’s shack and the kindergarten where she taught children had been torched, as well as her church.

As Pastor Dennis Meeker prayed, Muthoni fell to the ground, tears flowing from her eyes, crying out hysterically: “Forgive them! Forgive them!”

As she yelled, Meeker repeated over and over, “We shall persevere.”

“My pain is really deep,” she said after the service. “I am feeling bad in my heart. I have no house and no job. And I am the only breadwinner in the family.”

The fire left the church walls intact, but there was a black scar on the wall behind the altar with a white patch in the center. Meeker plans to leave it there to remind people what happened in Kibera over the past week. He said Tuesday’s attack by looters could destroy the building but not the church, and urged the congregation to forgive.

“You struggle with anger. You struggle with weeping,” said Meeker, an American who arrived from Iowa in September. “I don’t think you can make sense out of it. In fact, this is caused by politicians because we were really living in peace and going along well until the presidential election.”

A friend of mine who has done mission work in Kenya and who has sources there says that two other Lutheran churches in the countryside were burned. She heard that 35 parishioners taking refuge in one of the church buildings perished in the flames. I can’t find any other references to that. Does anyone know?

Conditions are said to be much improved now, but we need to be praying for the people and churches of Kenya. May they all display that spirit of the grieving woman who cried out not for retribution against the people who destroyed her home, her livelihood, and her church but that God would forgive them.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • elainep

    There is another reference to the 2 other burned churches in a Jan 4th blog entry at CyberStones stating the 35 trapped people were mainly women and children.

  • elainep

    There is another reference to the 2 other burned churches in a Jan 4th blog entry at CyberStones stating the 35 trapped people were mainly women and children.

  • http://www.thefriendsofmercy.blogspot.com Mark Sell

    There were several churches that burned. The one that most people heard about was in Eldoret, an Assembly of God – Pentecostal Church. Eldoret is about 10 hours north of Kibera – by road. However, it is that long because of how bad the roads are. It is north east of Kisumu by about a 2 hour drive.

    There were about 50 people killed in the fire. It was a very sad set of circumstances. Here is a quote from an article,

    “Grace Githuthwa heard the attackers before she saw them. They were singing war songs, running from two sides towards the church compound where she and 200 others were sheltering from outbursts of ethnic violence. She grabbed her four children and ran inside the Kenya Assemblies of God Pentecostal church. The hundreds of youths from the Kalenjin tribe armed with bows and arrows and machetes easily overpowered the few Kikuyu men and turned on the women and children…

  • http://www.thefriendsofmercy.blogspot.com Mark Sell

    There were several churches that burned. The one that most people heard about was in Eldoret, an Assembly of God – Pentecostal Church. Eldoret is about 10 hours north of Kibera – by road. However, it is that long because of how bad the roads are. It is north east of Kisumu by about a 2 hour drive.

    There were about 50 people killed in the fire. It was a very sad set of circumstances. Here is a quote from an article,

    “Grace Githuthwa heard the attackers before she saw them. They were singing war songs, running from two sides towards the church compound where she and 200 others were sheltering from outbursts of ethnic violence. She grabbed her four children and ran inside the Kenya Assemblies of God Pentecostal church. The hundreds of youths from the Kalenjin tribe armed with bows and arrows and machetes easily overpowered the few Kikuyu men and turned on the women and children…

  • http://www.thefriendsofmercy.blogspot.com Mark Sell

    continued….
    “The Kalenjin youths were still waiting, “cutting people like firewood” as they emerged. “They snatched Miriam from me and threw her back into the fire,” said Githuthwa, as she returned to the church, near Eldoret in western Kenya, hoping that by some miracle Miriam had survived.”

    Miriam did not survive. The article below is a graphic description of what happened.

    From an article at,

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2234483,00.html

    Thankfully, at this point, Pastor Meeker said that no one in his congregatin in Kibera was hurt physically.

    Hope this helps… mark

  • http://www.thefriendsofmercy.blogspot.com Mark Sell

    continued….
    “The Kalenjin youths were still waiting, “cutting people like firewood” as they emerged. “They snatched Miriam from me and threw her back into the fire,” said Githuthwa, as she returned to the church, near Eldoret in western Kenya, hoping that by some miracle Miriam had survived.”

    Miriam did not survive. The article below is a graphic description of what happened.

    From an article at,

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2234483,00.html

    Thankfully, at this point, Pastor Meeker said that no one in his congregatin in Kibera was hurt physically.

    Hope this helps… mark

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    So this was by Kalinjin youth, not the two tribes–the Kikuyu and the Luos–that are getting all of the press!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    So this was by Kalinjin youth, not the two tribes–the Kikuyu and the Luos–that are getting all of the press!

  • fw

    Lord have mercy.

  • fw

    Lord have mercy.

  • http://www.articlesbase.com/religion-articles/then-they-knew-220730.html Jesus

    I pray to God it should not happen again and may God bless them.

  • http://www.articlesbase.com/religion-articles/then-they-knew-220730.html Jesus

    I pray to God it should not happen again and may God bless them.


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