This semester, we have been doing a study on ethnicity and how our response should be as Christians. It has been a really insightful study for me as I have come to learn that to some extent, I am affected by the misconceptions and perceptions that abound about other ethnic groups.
On the other hand, it has been sad to realize that even my generation is affected by ethnicity and that there are still manifestations of the same even in our universities. On the brighter side, I have learnt that diversity is God’s idea and I would like to share my thoughts on the beauty of diversity.
THE BEAUTY OF DIVERSITY
“From one man he made every nation of men that they should inhabit the earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” Acts 17:26
“When the most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.” Deuteronomy 32:8
From the above scripture passages, we can clearly see that diversity is God ordained and it was meant to be a blessing. It is the gift and plan of God in creation. A very interesting expression or imagery of the beauty of oneness in diversity can be seen in God’s triune nature.
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is one of the most complex and difficult to explain but simply put, God is three in one: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. We can say that these are three Persons, each with different functions but they all exist as One, with perfect harmony.
In the same way, human diversity should mirror the harmony that can be seen in the Trinity. To come closer home, if we look at our country, we can appreciate the beauty of diversity. Take a moment and imagine Kenya with only one ethnic group- it would be so different, in a bad way. We therefore realize that the different ethnic groups complement one another and contribute to the overall glory of our country, Kenya.
For example, where would we be without the Maasais whose culture brings about tourism? What about the kalenjins who have made us known because of their gift in running? What about the other communities that are heavily involved in farming and we know that most of our revenue comes from exporting food produce? I would go on to mention every community but what I am trying to put across is that we need each other and no ethnic group is superior to another.
Sadly, this is not what is happening in our country. What was meant to be a blessing has been turned into a mark of death and a tool of oppression. We have become divided along tribal lines and our ethnic groups. We have fought one another, insulted one another, mistreated each other, killed one another and hated each other, forgetting that we are one.
This was and is not God’s intention when He created us (Genesis 1-3). From this account, we can see that every human being living today can trace his or her ancestry to Adam, the first man. Therefore, we all have a common ancestry and as rightly pointed out by Prof. Joseph Galgalo in his paper, “Ethnicity and Challenge to Christian Mission’, God regards humanity as one race with a variety of languages, people groups, tribes, families and nations.
Statistics show that Kenya is majority Christian, with the figures saying 80 % of Kenyans are Christians. However, this has not helped to change the ethnic hatred that exists between different people groups in our country and this was clearly exposed in the 2007 general elections.
Therefore, we are left with the following questions: are we, the Christians being the salt and light to the world as stated by Jesus in Matthew 5:13-16? Could it be possible that we have lost our saltiness? In answering these questions, it becomes evident that there is a sense in which the impact of the Christian community is not being felt in the society.
It is clear that as Christians, we have an enormous challenge to be agents of transformation in the society. We have to be the salt and light to the world and have an impact in the society around us. For this to happen, there has to be a response.
A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE
It is now clear that our impact as Christians is not being felt in our country. In responding to this truth, the first step would be to evaluate ourselves and find out our attitudes and perceptions on ethnicity or in simpler terms to examine ourselves and find out if we have attitudes towards other ethnic groups in our nation.
Perhaps some of the questions we would ask ourselves are: would you vote for someone from a different tribe as long as they meet the requirements? Are you willing to marry or be married from any tribe? Would you trust someone from a different tribe with your personal belongings or business? Would you live with someone from another tribe?
If we honestly answer these questions, we are in a position to tell whether we have negative attitudes towards other ethnic groups. If your answer is no to any of the questions, you could be having negative attitudes towards another tribe or tribes.
It is comforting to know that in the current generation, ethnicity has really declined. Come to think of it… we are not keen to find out the second name of our friends and which part of the country they come from. However, it does not mean that ethnicity is not affecting us- there are still traces here and there. One example is what happens in our universities whereby students vote for student leaders based on tribal lines.
When we go back to examining ourselves, we find that we could be harboring some attitudes or perceptions about other communities that could have been brought about by where we grew up and what we grew up hearing. Without our knowledge we may have developed ethnic prejudices against communities that we may not be aware of.
These stereotypes that we may have developed about other ethnic groups are what we need to guard against. We need to look at others through eyes of love and not through these stereotypes. We have to say no to negative ethnicity and to avoid any leader who propagates it.
The other way in which we can respond as believers is to participate in the elections in order to vote in the right leaders. It has rightly been said that if you do not vote, you do not have a right to complain thereafter about bad leadership.
YOUR VOTE COUNTS
As we approach the election period, I would like to remind you that contrary to what many young people believe, your vote counts. In my interaction with friends, I have come to realize the most prevalent reason as to why they do not want to vote is because they do not think that their vote will make any difference.
As a citizen of Kenya, you have the right to vote so as to participate in the development of your country. As it has been rightly said, “Kenya ni jina, Nchi ni wewe.” Many are the times we have complained about this thing or the other in our country but yet we do not want to take a step of action. The first step is voting in the right leaders.
As the deadline of the voter registration draws nearer I would like to urge you to register if you have not yet registered because Kenya belongs to you and I. We have an opportunity to be the agents of change in our country by preaching peace and electing the right leaders come August.
The other reason as to why many young people don’t want to vote is the feeling that there is no good leader to vote for. My friend has written a really good article on her blog concerning this and you can read it here.
The other reason I have heard is about the long queues but I don’t think this is a valid reason. The leadership of our country is of utmost importance. You cannot compare some hours under the sun to the effects of bad leadership. Bad leadership will affect you in one way or the other, whether you like it or not.
In conclusion, let me remind you that you have the responsibility to vote. Bad leaders are voted in by good citizens who don’t vote. Also, remember to examine yourself for any attitudes, misconceptions and stereotypes you may have towards other ethnic groups and pray for deliverance from them. Say no to negative ethnicity… preach peace.