12.02.08 18:05 Alter: 4 yrs

Reflections by Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory


Geneva  Switzerland

Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory, director of the WCC's Public witness: addressing power and affirming peace programme, during a press briefing on the Living Letters' visit to Kenya.

Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory, a Presbyterian from the United States and director of the WCC's Public witness: addressing power and affirming peace programme, was part of the Living Letters solidarity team sent to Kenya by the World Council of Churches (WCC) from 30 January to 3 February 2008.


Read her personal reflections on this experience:


As I prepared for this trip and gave thought to the news unfolding in front of us all on the television and in the newspapers about events in Kenya, I wondered if this is one of those times when we as people neglect to learn from the history of others who may have had similar experiences.  I have always been struck by the fact that after a nation has rid itself of the colonial powers that had it in its grips, then elements within that  nation then turns on themselves in what is often called ‘civil wars'. I ask myself if there is some way to help newly emerging nations toward democracy without internal war? Several scripture come to mind as I wrestle with these questions as I reflect on my experience in Kenya.  I will elaborate below.


Once the colonial powers have been expelled, then there is a challenge to see how the new nation will govern itself.  One of the most popular US Presidents was Abraham Lincoln.  About 75 years after the US Revolutionary War, when the Colonist of the new Americas defeated the British and sent them home, there was a struggle for control of the new nation on the part of several factions.  Each wanting to establish a nation in its own image and with its own understanding of democracy.


One of the primary areas of contention was about who could actually be considered a citizen of this new nation. Should this include slaves and indentured servants?  Another less known issue was the power of the individual colonies in a federated type government.  How much power will actually be left to each of the states to determine their own fate and their own governance? These questions were answered with a civil war 75 to 80 years after the US Revolutionary war with England.  Abraham Lincoln's speech, with his famous line of "A house divided against itself, can not stand", was a speech given at a time when he knew that the new nation could no longer be partially slave owning and partially not.  This line, as we know it is biblical.  It comes from the Gospel of Matthew 12: 22-30.  Jesus, when challenged as to whether he is driving out demons because he himself was a demon , shot back by saving that a demon or any one or any thing else does not fight itself and expect to win.  Such is the case here.  A nation that is divided against itself can not win.


We need one another. The Apostle Paul has said we need one another.  Each has its own purpose.  Each people have its own strength and weaknesses.  


One Body with Many Members


"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.


Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. …But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you', nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.' On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect;  whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it." (I Corinthians 12: 12-31)  We can not say too often that we not only need one another, but we are challenged to love one another as we love ourselves (Matthew 22: 36-40) and to return no one evil for evil (Romans 12: 16-21).  These are difficult words by which to live in today's world.


More information on the Living Letters visit to Kenya


Photo story


National Council of Churches in Kenya


Background information on the Living Letters visits