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Even for funeral, tribalism splits Kenyan family & friends

KENYA (BP)–No part of Kenya has been spared from the violence afflicting the country, not even slums where people have lived peacefully for years. One recent afternoon, a slum resident named Martha was visiting a sick friend. As she headed home, a group of young men attacked and killed her. Their reason -– she was Kikuyu.

The heartbreak doesn’t stop with Martha’s death. Her pastor, Richard, is not being allowed to perform her funeral. In fact, because he and his family are Luo, they are not even permitted to attend the service.

“Tribalism has become a cancer in our country,” Pastor Richard says. “And Satan is continuing to use it to destroy the people of Kenya. We must find a way to show people that in God’s eyes we are all the same.

“Our family and I are brokenhearted,” he says. For more than 10 years, his family and Martha’s family “worshipped together, grieved together, praised God together, celebrated life together. But now my family and I are outcasts because my father was of a different tribe than Martha’s.”

Martha and her family were among the first to join Pastor Richard’s congregation. Over the years, the two families became so close they considered themselves as one. They even moved next door to each other.

For Martha, her pastor says, the only thing more wonderful than attending church was the opportunity to go into the community and tell people about Jesus.

“Martha was always seeking ways that she could serve the people of the slums,” her pastor says. “She knew the needs of the people here; she lived here and struggled here just like the rest of us. And she loved the Lord and wanted to share her faith with anyone that would listen.

“She was the person I could always depend on in our church,” Pastor Richard says. “She was the first to volunteer, no matter what the task. She had a true servant’s heart.

“Tribalism is a complicated issue, but it must be addressed by the church and by those brothers and sisters in Christ throughout Kenya that want to see this hatred ended,” he says. “We must pray that this country will turn back to God or we will all perish together.”

Pastor Richard is trying to locate a Kikuyu pastor who will perform Martha’s funeral. His prayer is that the Lord will convict everyone who loved Martha, regardless of their tribe, to come together to celebrate her life.
Jerry Stephens is a Southern Baptist missionary serving in Kenya.

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  • Jerry Stephens