Archive of May 11, 2008

Church leaders in Kenya seek to pacify violent tribal sect

Nairobi, Kenya, May 11, 2008 (CNA) - Church leaders in central Kenya have asked the government to enter talks with a banned ultra-traditionalist tribal sect that has both committed bizarre murders and extortion while campaigning to impose circumcision and a strict dress code on women.

Anglican, Presbyterian, and Catholic leaders, including Cardinal John Njue, delivered a joint statement at Holy Family Basilica on Thursday.  They said that the Kenyan government has not been able to subdue the powerful Mungiki sect.  According to the Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA), the church leaders called for the release of the Mungiki leader Maina Njenga, who is in prison for illegal possession of firearms.  The prelates called him one of the country’s “renowned personalities.”

In their statement, the church leaders accused the government of “denying the obvious.”

“This group is not a small force to dismiss with television and radio statements. There is a need [for] another strategy to deal with this sect,” they said.

Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called for dialogue with the group, saying talks are ongoing. 

“When there is conflict, we can only reach people through dialogue and we will do so with Mungiki,” Odinga said.

The state-run Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has said the disruption caused by Mungiki atrocities highlights the need to disarm and permanently demobilize all militia.  “Nothing can justify the killings they have committed and in this regard they should be arrested and charged in court,” commission chairman Maina Kai said.

Police have pledged to wipe out the group.  The prelates said between six and ten Mungiki suspects killed by the police are buried daily in two central Kenyan districts.

The church leaders said on Thursday that the government needs to stop demonizing the sect, arguing that the government ought to extend loans to Mungiki members to help them earn a livelihood.

“These youth within Mungiki are energetic, averagely educated but jobless and living in absolute poverty. They cannot starve when the rich and elite are eating the surplus,” they said in their statement.

The clergyman also accused prominent unnamed politicians of relying on sect members when politically convenient, but later abandoning them.

“Politicians ought to be told to stop the method of ‘use and dump.’ Mungiki are people not things,” the statement said, according to CISA.

The Mungiki problem, the church leaders said, is a problem needing a long-term solution.  They said that a majority of sect members are found in impoverished area.  They called for dialogue with the Mungiki and funding for new businesses to reduce poverty.

The church leaders said they will organize a prayer service for the Mungiki and asked the government to “soften the language used while issuing security statements on any group of Kenyans that may happen to disagree with some government-backed opinions.”

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The Holy Spirit brings peace that the world cannot give, Pope says

Vatican City, May 11, 2008 (CNA) - This morning Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the Mass of Pentecost at St. Peter’s Basilica. In his homily, the Holy Father spoke about the ”harmony of gifts” of the Holy Spirit, and emphasized the responsibility of the Church to become an instrument of peace, a theme Pope Benedict has recited often in recent days.

“Only the Holy Spirit, which creates unity in love and mutual acceptance of diversity, can liberate humanity from the constant temptation of a desire for power on earth that wants to dominate everything and make everything more uniform.”

At the feast of Pentecost, Pope Benedict, the Church was founded not by human will, but “by the strength of the Spirit of God."

The Pope recalled that the Jewish feast of Pentecost commemorates the covenant of Sinai when God, through Moses, established the Israelites as his chosen people. “According to the Book of Exodus, this pact was accompanied by a terrifying demonstration of power by the Lord,” Pope Benedict said.

In the Acts of the Apostles, he reminded, “the apostles and community of 120 disciples forms an ‘assembly’ according to the model of the first covenant, a community convened to hear the voice of the Lord and walk in his ways.”

The Holy Spirit, the Pontiff said, defines the community with a “real baptism of fire, and form us into a "new family,” created when the disciples and the holy women, including Mary, the Mother of Jesus, "were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages. "

“This family is no longer based on ties of blood, but on faith in Christ," he added. This Church, which has “prayer as its main activity, receives its unity from the Lord, and is guided by his will."

Benedict XVI focused on the unity the Spirit brings: a harmony of the various gifts in communion of the same Spirit that allows for diversity in unity. The Pope stressed that the Church born on Pentecost is not a “federation” of churches, but “the universal Church, who speaks the languages of all peoples":

"It then bore fruit in other communities in every part of the world all the Churches are always an implementation of the one and only Church of Christ. The Catholic Church is therefore not a federation of Churches, but a single reality.”

The Pope explained the providential plan that leads from Jerusalem to Rome:

"Rome represents the whole world and therefore embodies the idea of Catholicism. St. Luke realized the Catholic Church was the universal Church, the continuation of the people and the election makes it own the history and mission [of Israel].”

The fact that Jesus uttered the word “Shalom” twice to the disciples after the Resurrection, points to the responsibility of the Church to be “a sign and instrument of God's peace for all peoples.”   “Shalom” is “much more than a greeting; it is the gift of the peace of the promise,” Pope Benedict said.

I tried to convey this message myself when I went to the headquarters of the UN and offered my words to the representatives of the people, he pointed out.

Yet the Pope added that is not just large events that we must think of, but also of the presence and actions of the Church.

“The gift of peace and the Spirit are at the heart of the sacrament of reconciliation. How important and unfortunately not sufficiently understood is the gift of Reconciliation, which recreates hearts!”

“The peace of Christ spreads only through renewed hearts of men and women reconciled and made slaves of justice, ready to spread worldwide peace with the sole power of truth, without compromising it with the mentality of the world because the world can not give the peace of Christ: here's how the Church can be leaven of the reconciliation that comes from God. It may be only if it remains obedient to the Spirit and bears witness to the Gospel, only if it carries the Cross and Jesus. That is witness of the saints of every age!”

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Pope Benedict appeals for peace in Lebanon

Vatican City, May 11, 2008 (CNA) - Shortly after celebrating the Mass of Pentecost in the St. Peter’s Basilica today, the Holy Father reappeared in the window of his study to greet pilgrims on Pentecost Sunday. During his Regina Coeli address, the Pope spoke about Pentecost, and made an appeal for Lebanon, the only country in the Middle East whose constitution calls for a Christian president.

"I have followed with deep concern, in recent days, the situation in Lebanon, where, after the stalling of the elections, violence and armed clashes have left numerous dead and wounded.

“Although, in the last hours, the tension is relaxed,the Pope said in reference to Hezbollah’s withdraw from Beirut, "I think today we must urge the Lebanese to abandon all forms of aggressive opposition, which would lead their beloved country to irreparable damage.”

“Dialogue, mutual understanding and the search for reasonable compromises are the only way to restore Lebanon’s institutions and give to the people, the security for a life of dignity and full of hope in tomorrow,” the Holy Father insisted.

Benedict XVI invoked the intercession of Our Lady of Lebanon to bring the Lebanese to "respond courageously" to the call to dialogue. If they do respond, "it will be, for the Middle East and the whole world, a sign of the real possibility of peaceful and constructive coexistence among men," he said. 

The different communities that comprise it are "rich, original and full of diversity.” “But to live Lebanon is a common task of all its inhabitants." With Mary, the Virgin in prayer at Pentecost, we ask the All Powerful God for an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of unity and harmony, to inspire in all thoughts of peace and reconciliation," Pope Benedict prayed.

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