Global Church Head Sees 'Signs of Hope' in Riot-Hit Kenya

The head of one of the world's largest church bodies said he can see "signs of hope" in restoring Kenya's political situation and has asked political leaders to engage in dialogue.

"While the situation continues to be critical, some signs of hope can be seen," said the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the 550 million-member World Council of Churches (WCC), in a public statement Wednesday.

A political dispute over the Dec. 27 election between Kenya's incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki, and opposition candidate Raila Odinga led to an outbreak of violence in the once stable and prosperous democratic country in Eastern Africa.

According to the latest reports, it is estimated that about 600 people have been killed, while some 200,000 have fled their homes.

In his statement, Kobia welcomed recent developments in the country and expressed hope that the "political stalemate" may be broken.

"We call on the political leaders, especially President Kibaki and Hon. Raila Odinga, to refrain from taking decisions that might frustrate the process towards dialogue for a peaceful resolution of the conflict", he said.

The ecumenical Christian leader praised the work of the Kenyan churches, which have been "strongly involved in resolving the situation and calling for peace" at a time when their "ministry of healing and reconciliation" is deeply needed.

"Church leaders must continue to rise above ethnic differences and politics and call for an end to the disputes," Kobia added.

The WCC statement also appealed to churches around the world to "continue to pray for the Kenyan people and churches and to provide humanitarian aid through ecumenical partners" in the country.