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News for Mid February 2008

Dear Friends,

Quiet has currently been restored to Kenya. We are all hoping that the political solution being sought for will be sufficiently satisfying for it to result in ongoing peace.

'They aren't seeing it . !' It is amazing, in all the discussions that I have seen about the crisis we are going through in Kenya, I have not seen or heard one comment to the effect that the problem is caused by Kenya's language policy! Even though this, clear as a bell to me, has majorly contributed to the recent chaos! Pray for me to be able to communicate this appropriately and clearly.

A Luo colleague suggested that Kiswahili was as effective as Dholuo in communication amongst his people. "Have you heard of chira" I asked him? Yes of course he had. "How important is chira to the Luo people?" I asked? "Very important" was his response. (And I agree because much of life for the Luo involves doing things to avoid chira, a kind of curse.) "So then, what is chira in Kiswahili, or English" I asked him? No response. There is no known word in these languages that translates chira. This means that conversations conducted in English or even Kiswahili are not able to refer to the very thing that, perhaps, the Luo people fear the most!

Differences between tribes are of course rooted in their languages. Let us compare Europe with Kenya. Hitler failed to unite Europe by force. But Europe is now coming together voluntarily, WITHOUT it being forced to use one language. Having been free to use their own languages in education and communication has motivated European peoples to develop their communities, and to appreciate one another. Kenyan people are NOT allowed to develop their languages (as all formal activities occur in non-African languages). So their languages, that determine much of what they do and how they do it, remain hidden. They are not easily accessible to members of other tribes. As a result there has been little opportunity for people to understand one another. Instead now, tribes have come to hate each other.

When a foreign language dominates the African scene; people's heartfelt issues are not addressed, or even noticed! Part of the long-term solution to 'Africa's problems' must be the use of a local language in government (and of course in the church). Certainly, this is a prerequisite for internally-led development to occur. The more that outsiders (including missionaries) can do to discourage the use of European languages and to encourage indigenous languages in Africa, the better.


For an excellent article on the need for 'poverty' for missionaries to the poor world, go to Poverty and Mission at SEDOS.