Weeping with those who Weep

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The Article

Ever since 9/11 I’ve developed a bit of a callous streak. When I hear of whole people groups turning to violence over and over again, it’s easy to say, “let them fight it out themselves. They’re hopeless.”

But then things got personal when the news hit about the Kenyan uprisings. After spending some time at a children’s home there, my family and I have emotional bonds with many Kenyan kids. Their faces smile at me from picture frames in my living room and dining room. It’s hard to hear about what’s happening to their country.

So far most of the children we know are fine. But a few, the sick ones who have advanced AIDS, are living in Eldoret, where the church with people inside was torched. Their little compound has been bombarded by refugees, desperate for shelter. They’re safe, but they’re running out of food. And my little friend David, who smiles at me from my fridge door, and whom I wrote about last summer, is hunkered down there.

Kenya was a relatively stable African country, with people making an honest effort to build some industry. And then this happened. And it happened because one guy—the President—had too much control. And too much power easily corrupts, and then it poisons everybody around you. Most Kenyans are just innocent bystanders to this whole process. They voted with good faith, just like we in Canada do. But that election, it increasingly looks like, was stolen.

We’ve witnessed corruption in our own country. Chretien’s Liberals embezzled over a hundred million dollars because they thought Quebec should rightfully be theirs. (Have the taxpayers ever been paid back, by the way?)

In Canada, at least, we have an independent judiciary, and an independent police force, and we can prosecute such corruption. In younger countries that don’t have our history of stability and freedom, it’s easier for people to hoard that kind of power.

It’s not that Africans are somehow incapable of stable governments, as I often hear people whispering; I think it’s just that they don’t benefit from the traditions that we have that put an inherent check on crap like that.

At Christmas, one of the most heartening things I saw was a news report of a Baghdad church celebrating mass, with Shi’ite and Sunni leaders in attendance by the dozens to show support to their Christian brothers and sisters. They want to end the violence. Sure, some are still trying to sabotage that dream, but the people are making the effort to bring about peace, and increasingly it looks like they may achieve it.

It’s taking a lot of bloodshed, just like it is in Kenya as well. But let’s not forget that we had bloodshed in our own history, too. The Americans had their War of Independence. The Irish fought their oppressors. England’s history is filled with wars that were largely needless. And the War of Spanish Succession in the early 1700s, when eight nations went to war just to decide which European king could claim Spain, too, took the lives of over 400,000 people. Absolute power, once again. Fortunately, we had a culture which respected the individual over the tribe, and over time, and with a lot of violence, this was eventually enshrined into law.

Too often we take democracy for granted and forget that it’s actually quite new. The United States is really the oldest free country in the world, if you go by enduring, stable governments and constitutions. After them, one by one, other countries fought for and demanded democracy, just as we did in Canada. We in the west led the way, but others are following.

So let’s not assume that other people are somehow less than we are. They are suffering under the same yoke that we bore for so long. That doesn’t mean every culture will achieve peace and democracy. Some, I fear, still don’t want it, nor are they ready for it. But many individuals do, and they are the ones who are suffering needlessly. So today, I will think of my friend David in Eldoret, stranded and running out of food. I will send a cheque, and say a prayer, and hope that people will do the right thing. 

If you want to help Kenyans like David, visit www.mcfcf.ca.

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