Restore Justice

ONE PRAYER-WEB

Our journey as a nation began long before independence. The Europeans partitioned Africa in 1884 and the British quickly declared our land a ‘protectorate’ and later a ‘crown colony’. Years of brutal displacement and suppression of the indigenous people followed, and many across the country who resisted were killed or exiled e.g. Waiyaki Wa Hinga, Koitalel Arap Samoei and Mekatilili Wa Menza. The climax was the Mau Mau uprising of 1952-5 where hundreds of thousands of Kenyans were arrested, tortured and detained by the British Government.

That’s why our independence 50 years ago was such a time of great joy and celebration! There were high hopes and aspirations across the nation. Finally, all that had been stolen was going to be restored! But with time, it became clear in the words of the late Jaramogi Oginga Oginga that it was ‘not yet Uhuru’. The successive regimes after independence centralized power and did not place high priority on distributing land and employment opportunities for other ethnic groups except those of the leader in power.  Absolute government power, corruption, political assassinations, and ethnic animosity increasingly became the order of the day.

That brief history of Kenya that explains why today, under the surface of this blessed nation simmer many resentments. The post election violence (PEV), of 2008 was just a glimpse of the kind of ticking time bomb we sit on as a nation when we allow such inequalities to continue unabated. I recommend watching ‘Something Necessary’  to give you a glimpse of what I’m talking about.

As a result today, Kenya is ranked among the top ten most unequal countries in the world. Our capital city, (not the metropolitan area but the traditional Nairobi) covers about 700 square kilometers and houses about 4M people. There are two hundred slum villages in Nairobi. 65% of Nairobi’s population (about 2.6M) live in the slums, which cover only 5% of the land area.

The UN Habitat says that 60% of all structures in the slums are owned by civil servants, council workers, ministers, government officers, and politically connected individuals. These lands – mostly originally public lands – have been irregularly allocated to powerful people.

The total rent collected from the urban poor living in the slums (in little rooms many of which host a full family and cost somewhere between 400-2000 Ksh a month) is 4B Ksh! That’s 48B Ksh per year milked from the poor: It’s such a huge booming cash cow that the slum lords protect this business viciously.

What are we supposed to do when faced with such stark realities? It’s easy to get paralyzed and remain stuck in the past: It’s easy to go round in circles trying to figure out how to undo such layered ‘historical injustices’ (whee do you start/how far back do you go?) But I believe the God’s word has the answer for our situation.

Please read Lev. 25:8-17, as we examine the second line of our national prayer –

‘Justice Be Our Shield And Defender’. 

Every 50 years, God hit the reset button in Israel. In an agricultural nation like Israel (very similar to much of Africa today), land was the most important asset that people owned because it represented not just a place to live but a means of production: With land you could farm and feed your family. With the ability to feed your family came good health, dignity and security: You could also educate your children ensuring wealth for the next generation.

And so what God did was to limit land purchases to 50 years. Land could be bought and sold but every 50th year it went back to the family who had owned it initially. This broke the cycle of poverty and ensured that every family, regardless of why they had lost their means of production would have a chance to start again.

Justice be our shield and defender

Mention the word justice and for most of us, the picture that comes to mind is courts, judges, and lawyers. But that’s only a part of what this word means! To be just means to be fair and right; and justice is the act of being fair and right in my treatment of others. God makes it clear that He is concerned about justice in our dealings with one another.

And yet national injustices have led to Kenyan society becoming like a pyramid. 65% of our people live below the poverty line, including the 10-15% who live in what is called destitute poverty; completely helpless. Then there’s the middle class comprising 25% of our population. And finally at the top is the wealthy 10% that controls about 50% of the economy.

When you compare this most of Europe, their societies are shaped more like an egg. There is a thin margin of 5-10% depending on the country, who are immensely wealthy. 80% are the middle class. And then you have another 5-10% who are the poor – but not the destitute poverty we see here in Africa.

The foundation for justice is equity. When you have a strong middle class, you have stable nation. But as long as the middle class is small, and the poor majority feel they have no hope of advancement, justice cannot prevail in our nation. For the poor, revolution and instability is the only way available to break the status quo. “Burn everything down, let’s all start again so that we can also have a chance”. That’s their reset button!

Now I don’t believe the answer is to take away from the rich and middle class and give it to the poor for that will just destroy innovation and can create a dependence welfare-mentality which ultimately will only entrench the problem. That’s not the reset this nation needs! The answer is to break people out of poverty into a place where they own their means of production – which is what we call the ‘middle class’. That was the rationale behind the year of Jubilee.

We must move away from seeing justice as the government’s or civil society’s responsibility. We need to understand that God holds His people accountable for the practice of justice in our nation, and in God’s eyes, justice in our day-to-day dealings is even more important than our worship and prayers on Sunday.

 Prov.21:3 says, ‘To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice’. In this Jubilee year, we must engage at an individual level and make a difference to our nation. 

Justice be our shield and defender

It doesn’t matter how much God blesses our ‘land and nation’: Without justice, it won’t last! But what can you do as an individual?

What if this year, each person or family would make it their responsibility to liberate one Kenyan family out of poverty? We could move from charity to justice! What if we could move from giving a handout to giving a hand up? Imagine, if even 1000 people were to take one family each and liberate them. If the average family is about 5 people, then together we would have liberated 5,000 people! Some of us can even influence our companies to put the means of production in the hands of 10 or 20 or even 50 people. There are many ways we can do this…

§ What if you over the next few months could raise 10,000Ksh as an individual or 100,000Ksh as a Life Group to give one family or 10-15 families a means of production through Maono, a micro-finance organization started and run by people here at Mavuno?

§ What if you would not just give the money but offer to give time and skills to help the group you adopt?

§ What if you ensure that all your friends have signed up their maids, watchmen and gardeners for health insurance through NHIF?

§ What if you could support the children of those who work for you through school as if they were your own?

§ What if you could put aside something every month to in future help your house-helper start a business after they’ve been with you for a few years?

§ What if you could stop bargaining so hard when you buy vegetables from that ‘mama mboga’ who needs the money so much more than you do?

I want to challenge you that this jubilee, you will make a commitment to take one person or one family and to liberate them out of the cycle of poverty by helping them own their means of production.

I used to think that our army is our shield and defender… But come 2008, I realized that our army could not defend us – only justice can be true our shield and defender! It’s time to RISE UP and be counted. It’s time to play your part in hitting the reset button for this nation and helping us all occupy. Don’t wait until the day you ‘make it’ because by then it may be too late. If Kenya prospers, you prosper!

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11 Responses to “Restore Justice”

  1. I enjoyed the service on justice, as I was thinking this morning, we are quick to help those outside our areas. yet we have those in need among us, I would say we start from the church & lift each other up so that we are able to lift others up. I heard this somewhere I can remember but I think it applies to us. When we say Charity begins at home then truly our charity should begin from within the church then head out. We are told that they will know of Christ by our love, lets began where we are as we spread out.

    kio

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    • ISAAC NJOROGE NJENGA Says:

      What a great thought! I usually see many cars parked in church and assume there are no poor people in our church.I agree totally with your sentiments.

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  2. We have to defend justice jealously. Unfortunately, I’ve already seen how people are “preparing” themselves for March 4th.

    There’s an airline – I will not say which – that’s positioning itself, targeting “leisure travelers, students, expats, & people who are looking to get out of Kenya during the elections period”.

    It could be that I’m being overly sensitive to this, but I love this country too much to ignore the implications of that statement.

    People who are looking to get out of Kenya during the elections period? What in the name of my beautiful Kenya is that supposed to mean? Are we that ready to flee the country that we fought so hard for? Are we that willing to abandon the peace, love and unity that we have prided ourselves in all this time? Are we so ready to run that a commercial interest is ready to exploit this to its selfish gain?

    We made our mistake in 2007. My fear, however, is that we took the shortcuts to remedy the situation. My fear is that we prepared our visas, and we’re just waiting for the right airline to tell us, “Come! We’re ready to fly you out!” and we’ll abandon the land that God gave us. My fear is that we call ourselves Kenyans. but we’re prepared to deny our children their chance at growing up in the beauty that we also grew up in.

    My hope is that there are some, however few, that are willing to stand and fight for what’s right in this land. My hope is that there are some, however few, that have seen beyond themselves and understood that there is a greater purpose for which we were given this land. My hope is that there are some, however few, that believe, like me, that Kenya is destined to become a shining beacon of hope for the world. Note: For the WORLD, not just for Africa. And believe me, we have it in us. We are a resilient people. Nothing is beyond us. We know how to battle what life brings our way. How much more if we stood as One People, speaking One Prayer? How much more?

    My prayer is that we learnt from our mistake in 2007. In my opinion, that’s all it was: A mistake. We stumbled. We now know better. My prayer is that we will rise and defend this nation. As mentioned, it’s not the army that is our shield and defender: It’s justice.

    My prayer is that we all stop and defend justice, each in our own little way. Just one moment every day: The lady crossing the road on the Mbagathi Way zebra crossing, but cars keep speeding past – it’s always a risk, but I step onto the road to stop drivers and let that old lady with her gunia of nyanya cross. Tiny gesture, but that’s one step in the fight for justice.

    Our watchmen – while we’re watching the debate in our houses, they’re out in the cold. Why not bring him a cup of tea, ask him who he’s voting in as governor of Nairobi? It’s as much his Nairobi as it is ours. We’re all capable of reason – why not reason it out with him, ask him the principle behind his vote? What does it cost us but a bit of milk, a few spoons of sugar and a fraction of our time?

    And yes: Prayer. Some of us have been called to prayer. Our prayer warriors and warrior princesses. The rest of us have been called to act on our gut feeling. To them that have been called to prayer, why not take a moment every day to pray for those of us that have nothing to go on beyond that little voice inside our heads? Why not pray that every step they take in their battle for the soul of this country – because yes, there IS a battle going on for the heart and soul of Kenya at this very moment – is a step to what this country has been called to accomplish to the glory of God?

    Why should we all just stop preparing to run and start preparing to stand and fight? Why not, in our own little ways, begin to stand as One Nation? Why not take a moment in our day, every day, to SPEAK the national anthem as a prayer, right after the Lord’s Prayer?

    One Nation, One Prayer.

    Perhaps the reason I’m so passionate about defending Kenya lies in the fact that I’ve never been anywhere else. Never have I traveled outside this land since birth. I know nowhere else but here. Still, my question to you, to all of us:

    WHY NOT STAND FOR THIS COUNTRY?

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  3. Well said Marcus, well said. Thank you.

    Thanks for the challenge Pst M…God bless you.

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  4. ISAAC NJOROGE NJENGA Says:

    I enjoyed last week’s sermon and I decided to partner with Maono to lift at least one group out of poverty.I encourage others to join me.

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  5. God's Child Says:

    I was brought up on the principle that our house help should never go be a house help elsewhere. Every one who left went on to other things one is a nurse, another is a certified caterer with her own business and two others run their own business. I have a lady who comes to clean once a weekend who I pay fairly but I would not hire a full-time house help unless I knew I was in a position to make sure she had the opportunity to change her entire life. Its just how I was raised.

    The most touching moment of last weeks sermon was when the hostess-with-the-mostest gave her mavuno story. I stumbled into Mavuno quite by accident. I had given up on church. I found a place where the pastor uses the pulpit to speak life into my life, sometimes to set me straight. I was moved. Sometimes I hear a sermon and I get so mad I vow never to return (that occupy your family!) yet somehow I find myself trudging back in the next Sunday. Because I have faith that what I hear is good for me and it is to build me and others through me. I am home.

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  6. Here is a story about a friend that really inspires me to do justice for helps. Names changed of course 🙂

    One evening Bella came home and found Anna (her help) unwell. She could tell that it was an Asthma attack but Anna repeatedly said that someone was out to get her; she was bewitched! This was not the first time that Anna had talked of the dark world and the many ’African’ movies she subscribed to did not help dispel her fears. Tired of her deliriums, Bella called a cabbie and took Anna to Nairobi Hospital – no not a Nairobi Hospital but The Nairobi Hospital! This was the first time this 28 year old was stepping into a hospital; she was blown away! That night Anna not only received a cure for her body but also for her mind. Her perspective on life has changed and works excitedly in helping her kids ‘fish’ too.

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  7. Awesome message. Here’s an opportunity to help restore justice for inmates by empowering them economically

    http://www.facebook.com/events/472166706177237/?ref=22

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  8. Caroline Muchiri Says:

    Just got through the May we dwell in Unity sermon. Pastor ulitumwa. My story starts 31yrs ago. I was my late fathers last born of 4 kids&step mothers only step child. This is how I was described…everywhere. I grew up happy enough perhaps oblivious to this ‘disfunction’ coz I did know better.

    The brutal truth came when I met my birth mother and like a puzzle all the gaps filled up but I was now that woman’s child. My step mother was a big hearted woman but always reminded me she was only duty bound to raise me that I never to confuse this for love..so like that little tribe I can not put my finger on it but something was wrong and I did not know better.

    Fast forward to present day. My dad is 4yrs passed on and I soon found myself with no roof over my head,in court with my step family to claim my inheritance. I am banished from our family and could not have a proper custom followed wedding.How do you ask someone who you love to marry you yet are at war with the same people tasked with negotiating your dowry,? I can’t walk in town or show up at a family function without being stopped and getting an earful on things I really had no control over.

    Injustice is not tribal,not starting out there, it is also alive & well in our homes. I have found more acceptance & understanding from my diverse friends & church than from within my own family.

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