Our Mission

Our Mission

 

To transform lives through ecumenism, capacity building, advocacy and service delivery.

 

Our Vision2

Our Vision

One Church; United in Faith and Mission Witnessing to Jesus Christ and Transforming Lives.

Our Values2

Our Values

In pursuing its Christian calling, the Council shall uphold:

  • Integrity through accountability and transparency;
  • Stewardship through sound resource management;
  • Professionalism through competence and efficiency;
  • Partnership by collaborating with others;
  • Servant-hood through fair and humble service.
Mission & Vision

 

 

A Visit to the Holy Land 

From 23rd January to 15 March 2016, I was privileged to take up a short course in Israel, courtesy of a scholarship by the Swedish Theological Institute in Jerusalem (STI). The STI is an institute of the Church of Sweden based in Jerusalem and is committed to the study of religion, culture and dialogue for people interested in the three main monotheistic faiths, namely Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The seven week’s international course that I attended is one of the learning events that the institute offers annually.

The title of the course for 2016 was ‘Building Peace and Living Reconciliation, a Shared Responsibility of Men and Women’.The course objectives were:

  1.        To introduce Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as distinct but inter-related religious systems, with emphasis on relevant theological concepts and hermeneutical tools
  2.        To introduce the Israeli and Palestinian region in terms of culture, ethnicity, gender, history, and the conflicts.
  3.     To equip students to encounter "the other" both within and without their own communities and religious traditions, especially in relation to women´s encounters.

Some of the study topics we covered included:

  • History of Jerusalem, the Holy Land, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
  • Theology of Religions; Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Theological hermeneutics and Jewish-Christian- Muslim relations
  • Ideas, Ideologies perspectives on the Land; Zionism, Palestinian nationalism, Christian Zionism, Gender, Eco-Theology, Contextual Theology and Sustainability.

 

The class consisted of 15 students drawn from different parts of the world, namely: Africa (4), India (5), Latin America (2), Europe (1), and three from Asia. Our lecturers were drawn from among the top professionals and practitioners from various professions reflected in the course contents.

The course incorporated different learning methodologies including lectures, field excursions, group discussions/ seminars and interviews, among others. We were therefore able to visit several places including Bethlehem, Galilee, Jericho, Capernaum and Nazareth. We also visited several Holy sites in Jerusalem including Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Golgotha), Mount Olives, Gethsemane, the Upper Room where Jesus and his disciples took the last supper, among many other places. There was an examination taken at the end of the course. Each day began and ended with joint devotions held in the St Brigid Chapel within the Institute or in the places we visited outside Jerusalem.

 

Our first week in Jerusalem coincided with the week of Global Prayer of Christian Unity, a tradition that the Church all over the world has kept worldwide since 1908! The prayer meetings were held in different churches in the City of Jerusalem each evening from 25th to 31st January 2016 and this gave us an excellent exposure to the universal church of Christ as the services were conducted in different languages and Christian traditions.

It was interesting to participate in the prayer service done in Syriac (a form of Aramaic), Arabic or Armenian languages. One fascinating thing about these Christian traditions is that scriptures are sang out or chanted rather than read as we do in our churches in Kenya. And given their dressing styles and their magnificent church buildings, one can easily mistake an ongoing Christian worship service for a Muslim service in Mosque!

 

It was fascinating for me to learn about the intrigues, history, magnitude and complexity of the Israeli – Palestinian Conflict. As one of the most protracted conflicts in human history, the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is perplexing even to the warring communities themselves. Even more bewildering is the different narratives that each of them and their allies have held about the conflict, making it more difficult for outsiders to objectively understand it. There has several efforts by a number ‘experts’ mostly foreign, including the UN (beginning with her predecessor, the League of Nations) who have prescribed various solutions to the conflict, to no avail. For example, one popular narrative argues that the Jews were pushed out of their land into exile in 70 AD by the Roman Empire only to formerly return in the 20th century to create the state of Israel in 1948.

The Palestinians on their part claim that they are the bona fide owners of the land hence their insistence on their identity as ‘Palestinians’ rather than just Arabs. They therefore argue that the so called Jewish people are just foreigners with strong backing of Western superpowers (read the U.S.A. and the Britain) who are keen to dislodge them from their ancestral land.

So difference is their interpretation of the conflict that when the Jews celebrate their independence gained from the British on 14th May 1948, the Palestinians commemorate the same day as Nakba Day (Arabic meaning "Day of the Catastrophe" or ‘disaster’). This is the day the Palestinians mourn the loss of their homeland to the Jews leading to displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), as at 2012, there were about 5 million Palestinian refugees or their descendants arising from the 1948 war of independence for the Israeli nation.  

 

The other dimension of the Palestinian- Israeli conflict has to do with the status of the Temple Mount, located in the old city of Jerusalem. According to the Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious narratives, the Temple Mount is the place where King Solomon built the first Temple[1] for the Worship of Yahweh (1Kings 6, 2Chronicles 3). Jews and Christian traditions has it that the same spot is also the Mount Moriah where Abraham bound his son Isaac and nearly sacrificed him to God (Gen 22: 2-8).

According to the rabbinic sages (Judaism), it was from here that the world expanded into its present form and where God gathered the dust used to create the first human, Adam. The Muslims also believe that from the same place, Prophet Mohammed was taken up to heaven to get the Quran, hence for them Jerusalem is the third Holiest City after Mecca and Medina.

 

The Temple Mount is thus the holiest site in Jerusalem, and for the Jews, they are under very strict warning by the Chief Rabbi never to set foot on the place due to its sanctity. It is the only place in the entire Israeli state where Israeli soldiers do nor guard. Instead, the Jordanian soldiers provide security for the thousand pilgrims and tourists who daily visit the Temple Mount.

Interestingly, even the rabbis have never gone to the place because of its Holiness and desecration following the invasion of Jerusalem by the Muslims in 7th Century AD when the Temple was leveled and a Mosque built on the same spot. The temple mount was conquered and converted to a church by the Crusaders (Christian warriors who fought for the repossession of the Holy City of Jerusalem in the 11th century) but their reign was short-lived when the Muslims returned into the city in the 13th Century and repossessed the Temple Mount.

The Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate that reigned over the land later did not dislodge the Temple Mount from the Muslims. Even the Israeli government which took over the Temple Mount in 1967 after the Six-Day War decided to maintain the Status Quo arranged by the Ottoman Empire towards the end of the 18th Century. The regulations were made as a way of managing the constant conflicts that characterized the Holy Land over the Holy sites in Jerusalem.  The Temple Mount was left under the jurisdiction of Muslims.

It is the same rules that divided the City into four quarters, namely the Jewish, the Muslim, the Christian and the Armenian quarters. Thankfully, the Golgotha area (known as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher) is under the Christians.

 

Despite the foregoing agreement, the Temple Mount still elicit fiercest emotions between the fundamentalists from the three religions. The Jewish fundamentalists argue for the complete takeover of the entire Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel as described in Old Testament, and includes the whole of West Bank and Gaza strip and parts of today’s Syria, Jordan, and Egypt) and are totally opposed to sharing of the land whatsoever with anyone- including the Palestinians.

 

The rightwing Palestinians on their part claim that Jerusalem and indeed today’s Israeli state is their land that must be returned to them from Jewish land grabbers. The Christian fundamentalists especially the Charismatic groups all over the world argue from the apocalyptic books like Revelation that the repossession of the Temple Mount by the Jews and rebuilding the Third Temple is urgent and is of significant eschatological stage in the second coming of Jesus Christ. Amusingly, most Jews are oblivious about this motivation and the unusual support they receive from these Christians.

 What many Christians may not be aware of is that there are only about 220, 000 (or under 2%) Christians living in both the State of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip), majority of whom are Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip!       

 

It is these intricacies of the Palestinian – Israeli Conflict and significance of the Holy Land in the three religions that make Jerusalem a more exciting place to study Peace and Reconciliation. There are a number of ordinary people, scholars, theologians and practitioners from the three religions who are doing a fantastic job in trying to bridge the divisions in the Holy Land with limited but most significant impact. For example, the City of Bethlehem (currently led by A Palestinian Christian Woman) is one of the most peaceful and friendly places in the West Bank, thanks to their commitment to non-violent conflict resolutions approach practiced by majority of the residents most of whom are Muslims. There are also Jews, Christian and Muslims activists who are using interreligious dialogue to demystify the strong stereotypes and prejudice held by the two warring groups as well as the many foreigners living in the Land as they campaign for peaceful coexistence between the two peoples.

 

I must confess that my faith grew exceedingly as I came to terms with Christian Holy Sites only known to me hitherto through the Bible. Walking the Via Dolorosa, the route that Jesus took between his condemnation by Pilate and his crucifixion and burial, was particularly a profound experience to me. I also grew tremendously in my knowledge of Peace and Conflict Studies.

My understanding of the world was also enhanced through my interaction with my classmates as we all came from different parts of the world. Moving forward, I hope to work with my colleagues in the Programmes department to secure funding to implement the concept note on interreligious dialogue in Kenya that I developed as my submitted examination at the end of the course. I believe that interreligious dialogue can help bridge the religious divisions that we suffer in Kenya which is currently fueling terrorism that is persistently tend to be directed towards certain religious communities.

 I was amazed to learn that between 2008 and July 2015, Kenya experienced 340 terrorist attacks leading to 986 deaths and at least 1,520 injuries. And despite the Kenya launching an offensive against the Al-Shabaab in Somalia in August 2011, rather than deter the vice, acts of terrorism has in fact increased nine fold. There is therefore an urgent need to change tact in the fight against terrorism in Kenya.

 

I wish to sincerely thank the Council through the General Secretary for giving me the opportunity to go for this course. My appreciation also goes to the Church of Sweden for sponsoring me out of so many applicants who were interested in the same opportunity.

By Kepha Nyandega, Senior Programmes Officer, Operations.



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