Kenyans Turn to God for End to Violence

After almost a week of intense post-election violence and rioting, Kenyans on both sides of the political divide are turning to God for His grace to save Kenya.

Conflict-weary Christians across deeply religious Kenya filled churches on Sunday to pray that God would intervene to bring peace where the political leaders have failed.

Jane Riungu, leading her five children in their best clothes to a hilltop church outside Nairobi, said, "Our leaders have failed us. They have brought this catastrophe upon us. So now we are turning to the Almighty to save Kenya."

Kenya has been the scene of rioting and looting since President Mwai Kibaki's re-election last Sunday was furiously contested by opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Hundreds have been killed in the ensuing ethnic violence and clashes between protesters and police, which threaten to unravel stability in the entire east African region. Another 250,000 people have been displaced from their homes.

Protestant, Catholic and other churches were united in prayers and moments of silence for the dead on Sunday.

Tens of thousands of refugees have sought shelter in churches, police stations and grassy fields around the trouble hotspot Eldoret. Around 30 men, women and children – mainly of Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe – were killed in a church in nearby Kiambaa when it was torched by a violent mob of local Kalenjins last Tuesday.

Some 9,000 refugees from the Eldoret environs have found shelter in the ethnically-mixed town's Sacred Heart Cathedral, despite the massacre at Kiambaa.

Catholic Bishop Cornelius Korir, a Kalenjin, said, "I've tried to tell people there's no difference between us. I look after all people, regardless of tribe."

South African Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu has been in the country since Wednesday, moving between the two opposition groups in an attempt to solve the disagreements between Kibaki and Odinga, and halt the violence on the streets.

On Saturday, the Pope called for an end to the "great tragedy" in Kenya and pressed politicians to end the dispute through dialogue and debate.

Pope Benedict expressed his "deep sorrow and concern" over the situation in a letter sent on his behalf by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to the president of the Kenya Episcopal Conference.

The letter stated, "He pleads for an immediate end to acts of violence and fratricidal conflict.
"The Pope also appeals to political leaders, who are responsible for the common good, and invites them to embark resolutely on the path of peace and justice, since the country needs peace that is based on justice and brotherhood."

The letter added that the Pope was praying for an end to the violence and expressed his solidarity with Kenyans and bishops in the country.

Also on Saturday, President Kibaki announced he was ready to form a national unity government but the opposition rejected the offer, demanding Kibaki's resignation and an international mediator to broker talks before a new election in three to six months.

"My position has not changed. We want a negotiated settlement. Our starting point is that Kibaki is there illegally. He should not come to the negotiating table as the president," opposition leader Odinga told reporters.

Ghanaian President John Kufuor will visit Kenya to talk to both sides about a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Before the violence, Kenya had been regarded as one of Africa's most stable and economically flourishing democracies.

The Media Council of Kenya has announced an hour-long "Prayers for Peace" broadcast on all major channels for Sunday evening.

"Together, our prayers will help bring Kenya back to the beautiful, united nation we all love," the council said.