The Cross and the Crescent
Garissa Conference on Integral Mission in Muslim Communities
This past week, Erica and I travelled with our friend Willem Jansen to the North Eastern Province (NEP) of Kenya. Crossing the mud-red Tana River was never more significant for us than on this trip, as we were returning to the town of Garissa for the first time since the beginnings of targetted kidnappings and violent attacks that erupted in November 2011. The past two-years have been a season of intense religious persecution and unrest for the people of this community. We were eager to join our colleagues Yattani Gollo, William Wako and Geoffery Mwita who are serving as part of the CBM Muslim Ministries team in Kenya, and to be able to fellowship with our friends and partners once again in the arid lands of NEP.
Along with some wonderful times of visiting, we came for a two-day training for local Christian leaders and laity. Over the past two-years, the CBM Muslim Ministries team has been very active in providing emergency relief and recovery interventions such as food for work projects, food security training, and medical support for Muslim villages directly affected by the famine of 2011. Change is happening as communities establish farms, irrigation systems, schools, improved latrines and open roadways. Along with these relief efforts, our food security team is training congregations in sustainable dry-land agricultural practices through an approach called “Farming God’s Way” (FGW). The success has been phenomenal as once sandy tracks of scrub bush are being transformed into prosperous gardens and small farms. This month, five of the local churches have begun to share their experiences with Muslim neighbours living in villages in and around Garissa. Together they are establishing demonstration FGW plots for the whole community!
Growing vegetables in the desert
But farming is only one side of food security. Through the Self Help Group (SHG) approach we are seeing local churches draw together their Muslim neighbours and friends for emotional and spiritual support, livelihoods trainings, financial training and micro-enterprize development. Erica, and our colleague Laura Muema, have been training community facilitators in Garissa over the past two years. Today there are more than seven groups that have been formed and are active in Garissa as Christian women are reaching out to their Muslim neighbours.
Community facilitator Josephine training self help groups on record keeping
Participants from 26 local churches and three local mission agencies
at the Catholic Guest House, Garissa
Perhaps one of the greatest signs of God’s Spirit at work has been the deepening unity and harmony among the local churches of Garissa. Since our first conference in January 2012, we have been blessed, time and time again, as we gather with these churches from different Christian traditions and denomination in solidarity, worship and common witness.
Aaron with our colleague William Wako,
who coordinates the CBM food security ministries in Garissa
Willem Jensen speaking to the participants
on the Islamic understanding of faith
on the Islamic understanding of faith
On Thursday, Erica and I opened a two-day training event entitled “The Cross and the Crescent in Garissa” with guest speaker Willem Jensen from St. Paul’s University’s department of Islamics and Christian/Muslim Relations. Willem is a good friend and has been an advocate for deepening Muslim and Christian dialogue in Eastleigh where he provides leadership for the Centre of Muslim and Christian Relations at the Eastleigh Fellowship Centre.
Willem speaking with participants at the tea break
Yattani and Erica at the Catholic Guest House
For the first time in our journey with the Garissa Interdenominational Fellowship, we were delighted to have members of the Garissa Catholic Dioceses participate in the training and discussion gathering.
Erica visiting with women leaders participating in the conference
* Please pray that the peace in Garissa continues to grow and that God’s Spirit will heal those who have suffered pain and loss during this time of conflict and terrorism.
* We pray for the Christian and Muslim leaders in Garissa that they will demonstrate mutual respect and appreciation for one another and for the people of Garissa.
* We pray for couregeous faith that lives in the reality of Christ victorious love.
Erica with CBM alumni Joan Ward at her home in Garissa