One Body? Identity and Affiliation in Kenya
Jeff’s post on the roots of the divisions that are ever so apparent at this time in Kenya has prompted me to share further questions we have been wrestling with over the past few weeks as we sit with friends from various ethnic communities here in Nairobi.
The questions that have been keeping me awake at night sit at a different tier—not one that asks how and why divisions were formed in the first place, but why and to what extent do people identify with those divisions now. This is a tricky area for me to maneuver in, as the community that I come from sits at the top of the totem pole (a white American male). It requires attention to how I advocate for power in the midst of division.
Sitting with a group of Luo and Kikuyu pastors last week (the two tribes most in tension), we discussed the hierarchies of identities that people associate with these days. Their feeling was that people first identified with their tribe, followed by their political affiliation and finally their faith. There was some debate on whether or not tribe or political affiliations took the top spot. There was no doubt, however, that belonging to the body of Christ lagged far behind.
As the Kenyan population moves toward urban centers, cross-tribal marriages become more common and native tongues are lost. I wonder why it is that tribal identity remains strong enough to displace neighbors, to loot neighborhood kiosks or hack off the arm of a matatu (minibus) driver. I also wonder where the identity of the church has gone.
The most common statistic for religious distribution among Kenyans is that 70-80% of the 36 million people in the country are Christians (although there are many outliers for this statistic). Imagine how the past month would have been different if the church was something worth identifying with. May this be a small reminder to all of us in ministry as we wrestle with what it means to identify with God’s radical love and to transform lives.
May our collective prayers continue to be heard for this nation, across tribal lines and the enormous economic divide as well as those that are working to rebuild the identity of the body of Christ.
a sucker for questions and a cynic of answers
a nature boy at heart—masking my obsessions with public transportation, belgian triples and Craigslist bargains
blogs about life in Kenya here