Lutheran church burned in Kenya

In the rioting in Kenya over a disputed election that has sparked inter-tribal warfare, Springs of Life Lutheran Church has been looted and burned. The congregation is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya, which is in fellowship with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The home of the ELCK bishop, Dr. Walter Obare, a noted spokesman for orthodox Christianity against the liberal west, was said to be in danger.

Springs of Life lost not only its sanctuary but its nursery school and its medical clinic that ministered to the Kenyan poor. That clinic had just been remodeled with the help of American congregations.

For more details and for a way you can help click here.

 UPDATE:  This conflict is NOT between Muslims and Christians.  Both of the tribes tearing each other apart are predominately Christian from many different denominations.  The Kikuyus have been the ruling tribe, with the Luos feeling oppressed and mistreated.  The riots started when the Kikuyu president was re-elected amidst charges of stealing the election, whereupon the Luos rose up in protest. 

According to my research, the Lutherans are primarily Luos.  It was Luos–hopefully, not any of the relatively small number of Lutherans–who burned the Assemblies of God church and slaughtered between 30 and 50 Kikukyus who had gone there for sanctuary.  Apparently, the Kikuyus are now burning Luo churches. Or perhaps this is not so much revenge as what happens in a state of anarchy when all social order breaks down. 

 If anyone has any more background information. please comment.

UPDATE: Rev. Mark Sell, whose Friends of Mercy organization does work in Kenya, gives some more perspective in a comment here. And on his blog he gives more details and pictures, including of the people the church ministered to and of the church burning.

HT:  Mary Moerbe

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.

  • Bror Erickson

    That is tragic news, Kenya has not been known to be the most peaceful of countries, but it has been among the most stable in Africa, next to my beloved Botswanna. Obare is a man of internationaly importance, and the Lutheran Church is greatly indebted to him. Sweden gave us the Lion of the North, Kenya has given Sweden the African Lion of orthodoxy. I pray for his safety.

  • Bror Erickson

    That is tragic news, Kenya has not been known to be the most peaceful of countries, but it has been among the most stable in Africa, next to my beloved Botswanna. Obare is a man of internationaly importance, and the Lutheran Church is greatly indebted to him. Sweden gave us the Lion of the North, Kenya has given Sweden the African Lion of orthodoxy. I pray for his safety.

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

    The civil unrest in Kenya is disturbing on several levels.

    Everything in Kenya is tribal. Kenya has over 40 tribal languages and each speak Swahili and English. This unrest is the result of Kikuyu and Luo distrusting each other when the other gains authority, or, as they say in Africa, it is our turn to eat.

    My most recent trip to Kenya, Oct. 07, was exciting. I took a team from St. John’s Lutheran Church, Rochester, MI. They are assisting Friends of Mercy in our work with the AIDS orphans etc.

    We met Pastor Meeker and members of his congregation. We were at the church that was torched.

    Pastor Meeker is a faithful pastor and his wife, Dcns. Lorna, are committed to rebuild and continue with the proclamation of the gospel and reaching out with acts of mercy. (Much more on this at my blog. We also will match gifts – dollar for dollar, to help rebuild.)

    Kenya has the strongest economy in Africa and was considered among its most orderly countries and – is a democracy. We hope and pray it will settle down soon. We are taking a group of students from Concordia Chicago to build AIDS widow homes in May.

    This, sadly, becomes a way for us to understand how closely the civil and spiritual realms on earth depend upon each other. The church is heavily active, the way it used to be in the U.S., in leading the charge in caring for the poor and dealing with HIVAIDS.

    For example, Pastor Meeker cancelled services last Sunday because of the riots. He cancelled classes and now baptisms are delayed.

    The good will of the outreach of mercy, which brings hope and order to families and children without parents, strengthens the order of the community. The acts of mercy and love in the Kibera community will now be harder with the medical clinic out of order.

    I watched the lines of people, over 800, whom the church assisted in a week long medical clinic at Springs of Life. Yet, in the midst of suffering, the church will prevail by God’s grace. God’s glory is in the cross.

    Mark

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

    The civil unrest in Kenya is disturbing on several levels.

    Everything in Kenya is tribal. Kenya has over 40 tribal languages and each speak Swahili and English. This unrest is the result of Kikuyu and Luo distrusting each other when the other gains authority, or, as they say in Africa, it is our turn to eat.

    My most recent trip to Kenya, Oct. 07, was exciting. I took a team from St. John’s Lutheran Church, Rochester, MI. They are assisting Friends of Mercy in our work with the AIDS orphans etc.

    We met Pastor Meeker and members of his congregation. We were at the church that was torched.

    Pastor Meeker is a faithful pastor and his wife, Dcns. Lorna, are committed to rebuild and continue with the proclamation of the gospel and reaching out with acts of mercy. (Much more on this at my blog. We also will match gifts – dollar for dollar, to help rebuild.)

    Kenya has the strongest economy in Africa and was considered among its most orderly countries and – is a democracy. We hope and pray it will settle down soon. We are taking a group of students from Concordia Chicago to build AIDS widow homes in May.

    This, sadly, becomes a way for us to understand how closely the civil and spiritual realms on earth depend upon each other. The church is heavily active, the way it used to be in the U.S., in leading the charge in caring for the poor and dealing with HIVAIDS.

    For example, Pastor Meeker cancelled services last Sunday because of the riots. He cancelled classes and now baptisms are delayed.

    The good will of the outreach of mercy, which brings hope and order to families and children without parents, strengthens the order of the community. The acts of mercy and love in the Kibera community will now be harder with the medical clinic out of order.

    I watched the lines of people, over 800, whom the church assisted in a week long medical clinic at Springs of Life. Yet, in the midst of suffering, the church will prevail by God’s grace. God’s glory is in the cross.

    Mark

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

    Oh, one more thing, Kenya is very important in the geo-political struggle in the war on terror. Even though this is very much a trible battle, it is also something that could very well create trouble in fighting against Islamic extremism.

    U.S. and Great Britain view Kenya as a line in the sand against the unruly nature of Islamic warlords who would love to get control of Kenya. So, there is an Islamic element to the struggles in Kenya, though this is NOT a clash of ChristianMuslim.

    Finally, it appears that things are settling down. Today was “market day” and the people of Kibera were able to walk to market and get food. Thanks be to God!

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

    Oh, one more thing, Kenya is very important in the geo-political struggle in the war on terror. Even though this is very much a trible battle, it is also something that could very well create trouble in fighting against Islamic extremism.

    U.S. and Great Britain view Kenya as a line in the sand against the unruly nature of Islamic warlords who would love to get control of Kenya. So, there is an Islamic element to the struggles in Kenya, though this is NOT a clash of ChristianMuslim.

    Finally, it appears that things are settling down. Today was “market day” and the people of Kibera were able to walk to market and get food. Thanks be to God!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Many thanks for the reports, Mark, and for the pictures from your blog (whose site I linked in an update to this post). Thanks too for the work you do there and elsewhere in Africa.

    As far as you know, is my breakdown of the tribal conflict accurate? Was the church burned down by Kikuyus because they saw it as a Luo church, or was it just a casualty of the anarchy?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Many thanks for the reports, Mark, and for the pictures from your blog (whose site I linked in an update to this post). Thanks too for the work you do there and elsewhere in Africa.

    As far as you know, is my breakdown of the tribal conflict accurate? Was the church burned down by Kikuyus because they saw it as a Luo church, or was it just a casualty of the anarchy?

  • http://www.advance-africa.com Joe Ngugi

    To answer your question “As far as you know, is my breakdown of the tribal conflict accurate? Was the church burned down by Kikuyus because they saw it as a Luo church, or was it just a casualty of the anarchy?…” It is fair to say that the Church was a victim of anarchy and social breakdown.

    I am a Kenyan and my organisation Advance Africa (http://www.advance-africa.com) reaches out to the poor communities in the slum areas etc. Tribe is never a consideration.

    I must also point out that the church in Eldoret was probably burnt by the Kalenjin, who have had land conflicts with the Kikuyus in Rift Valley before. I would be very cautious in apportioning blame over the burnt church in Eldoret to the Luo or the Lutheran church to the Kikuyus.

    Another issue that must be brought forth is that Kenya Assemblies is not considered to be a Kikuyu church nor is Lutheran Church considered to be Luo in Kenya. These churches have a healthy mix of all tribes. As a matter of fact, most Lutherans tend to be Meru, a tribe that is closely affiliated to the Kikuyu and belongs to the GEMA (Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association).

    The only churches in Kenya that tend to be tribal are the Presbyterian (PCEA) and the Anglican church. These are predominantly Kikuyu. But, it would be unfair to say that they do not have millions of worshippers from other tribes.

    I would therefore say that the churches were burnt down because other tribes were considered to be sheltering there.

    Eldoret is a Kalenjin area with more Kikuyu than Luo. The area has had past conflicts between Kikuyu and Kalenjin. The Kalenjin voted for Raila the opposition candidate.

    Joe Ngugi
    Volunteers Coordinator Advance Africa
    (www.advance-africa.com)

  • http://www.advance-africa.com Joe Ngugi

    To answer your question “As far as you know, is my breakdown of the tribal conflict accurate? Was the church burned down by Kikuyus because they saw it as a Luo church, or was it just a casualty of the anarchy?…” It is fair to say that the Church was a victim of anarchy and social breakdown.

    I am a Kenyan and my organisation Advance Africa (http://www.advance-africa.com) reaches out to the poor communities in the slum areas etc. Tribe is never a consideration.

    I must also point out that the church in Eldoret was probably burnt by the Kalenjin, who have had land conflicts with the Kikuyus in Rift Valley before. I would be very cautious in apportioning blame over the burnt church in Eldoret to the Luo or the Lutheran church to the Kikuyus.

    Another issue that must be brought forth is that Kenya Assemblies is not considered to be a Kikuyu church nor is Lutheran Church considered to be Luo in Kenya. These churches have a healthy mix of all tribes. As a matter of fact, most Lutherans tend to be Meru, a tribe that is closely affiliated to the Kikuyu and belongs to the GEMA (Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association).

    The only churches in Kenya that tend to be tribal are the Presbyterian (PCEA) and the Anglican church. These are predominantly Kikuyu. But, it would be unfair to say that they do not have millions of worshippers from other tribes.

    I would therefore say that the churches were burnt down because other tribes were considered to be sheltering there.

    Eldoret is a Kalenjin area with more Kikuyu than Luo. The area has had past conflicts between Kikuyu and Kalenjin. The Kalenjin voted for Raila the opposition candidate.

    Joe Ngugi
    Volunteers Coordinator Advance Africa
    (www.advance-africa.com)

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

    Good morning Dr. Veith. As I sit here enjoying the blessings of a peaceful society at my daughter’s volleyball game, I give thanks for what appears to be a settling of the turmoil in Kenya – usually with a homemade ball. Playing soccer in Kenya is what the kids have and its free. But, they can’t do that yet. But, soon, they’ll be back.

    Yes, your breakdown of the tribal conflict is accurate. As I speak with Pastor Meeker, it appears that Springs of Life was a casualty of time and place, not an orchestrated strike against the “Luo’s.” I base this conclusion on the fact that another church, close by, Petnecostal, was also torched. The businesses and homes surrounding Springs of Life were also looted and burned. Today, I’ll post pics of the aftermath.

    Again – thanks be to God! Order is beginning to return to Kenya. The international community is very involved at the highest levels to help Kenya provide a “Kenyan solution” to the political stand off. As I said earlier, and catiously, this is about Kenya, but also, so much more so, to the rest of the world.

    Thanks for the link! I shall return the favor on my blog.
    Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum!
    Mark

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

    Good morning Dr. Veith. As I sit here enjoying the blessings of a peaceful society at my daughter’s volleyball game, I give thanks for what appears to be a settling of the turmoil in Kenya – usually with a homemade ball. Playing soccer in Kenya is what the kids have and its free. But, they can’t do that yet. But, soon, they’ll be back.

    Yes, your breakdown of the tribal conflict is accurate. As I speak with Pastor Meeker, it appears that Springs of Life was a casualty of time and place, not an orchestrated strike against the “Luo’s.” I base this conclusion on the fact that another church, close by, Petnecostal, was also torched. The businesses and homes surrounding Springs of Life were also looted and burned. Today, I’ll post pics of the aftermath.

    Again – thanks be to God! Order is beginning to return to Kenya. The international community is very involved at the highest levels to help Kenya provide a “Kenyan solution” to the political stand off. As I said earlier, and catiously, this is about Kenya, but also, so much more so, to the rest of the world.

    Thanks for the link! I shall return the favor on my blog.
    Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum!
    Mark

  • Veith

    Thank you very much, Joe Ngugi, for clarifying the tribal situation with the various churches. I’m glad to hear that the churches are a place for tribes to come together instead of the opposite.

  • Veith

    Thank you very much, Joe Ngugi, for clarifying the tribal situation with the various churches. I’m glad to hear that the churches are a place for tribes to come together instead of the opposite.

  • Pingback: In Light of the Gospel » Blog Archive » Conflict in Kenya

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  • Lori

    Thank you for talking about this! I was so glad to know about “Friends of Mercy.” Thank you Dr. Veith for bringing our attention to it via your blog. I encourage other’s to sign up for the newsletter from FOM.

    I will be praying for you all and for Kenya!

  • Lori

    Thank you for talking about this! I was so glad to know about “Friends of Mercy.” Thank you Dr. Veith for bringing our attention to it via your blog. I encourage other’s to sign up for the newsletter from FOM.

    I will be praying for you all and for Kenya!

  • Kenyan for Kenyans

    Actually, it was mostly Kalenjins who burned the church. The western media reported it as Luos thereby demonising that group. None of these media outlets has admitted to making a mistake. Most appear to have erased their error.

    Please be more accurate in your reporting as this is extremely sensitive.

    Regards,
    Kenyan for Kenyans

  • Kenyan for Kenyans

    Actually, it was mostly Kalenjins who burned the church. The western media reported it as Luos thereby demonising that group. None of these media outlets has admitted to making a mistake. Most appear to have erased their error.

    Please be more accurate in your reporting as this is extremely sensitive.

    Regards,
    Kenyan for Kenyans

  • Kenyan for Kenyans

    I was referring to the Assemblies of God church in Eldoret in the above comment…

  • Kenyan for Kenyans

    I was referring to the Assemblies of God church in Eldoret in the above comment…


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