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Thought for the Week
Letter from Kenya
Our reception in Kenya was very warm. Kenyan Quakers waited all day at the airport to welcome us and then got us organized. A beautifully lush, but sometimes sparse, red dirt landscape greeted me as we left Nairobi for Nakuru. The roads teemed with market stalls of all descriptions – mainly consisting of ramshackle wooden poles supporting a ragged canvas top.
The sixth world conference of Friends is being held on the campus of Kabarak University. I have never been in such a friendly group as I have found at Kabarak. Smiles and good mornings greet you, every day, on the fifteen-minute walk to the main campus and at breakfast.
There is an amazing diversity of people and cultures at the gathering. You can hear it and see it everywhere. The dining-hall is full of the din of Friends greeting one another and talking in a myriad of languages. There is simultaneous translation for French, Spanish and Kiswahili in the sessions – but at meals communication sometimes amounts to showing each other our name badges, with big smiles!
There is also such colour. Bright flowers enhance the pathways and women catch the eye everywhere in their beautifully coloured dresses. Some wear headscarves to match – tied in a variety of ways. The Bolivian women dress more soberly but lighten the look with their distinctive bowler hats.
I have heard some moving and sad tales here. A Bolivian Friend talked about how, in 2011, she was in a restaurant and, suddenly, a group of men dressed in black, with high calibre guns and ski masks, came in shooting. She saw two men falling down to the floor, spilling blood, and slipped underneath the table covered with a table cloth to hide her. She saw the men killing people. They killed the hotel’s owner, her daughter and a medical visitor who was a guest. Then, they came back to shoot, again, two men who were lying down close to her to make sure that they were not alive. She said that God made them blind and saved her life. After her testimony she sang a haunting song about God taking care of you.
An African woman talked about how she was taken and raped during the troubles in her country and became pregnant. After eight months she was freed and then reunited with her husband. They have taken in several orphans and raised them. Her brother was missing for years and when he returned he had HIV which he passed to his wife, who later died. She has had to leave the conference today as her brother is dying. He will leave three small children. You become close to people’s stories here.
The world conference is a very exciting place to be. It is wonderful to meet so many members of the worldwide Quaker family. The talks and discussions have been really stimulating but some are also very challenging – particularly about different approaches to our beloved Quakerism.
Trish Carn the Friend, 27 April 2012