Nairobi (Agenzia Fides) - "We wanted to find a simple and direct way to send everyone a message of peace and calm on the eve of the elections (scheduled for next August 9th, ed) and so we have decided to organize a caravan of women religious to go through the "hot spots" in the Kisumu region, where there were very serious incidents during the past elections. On July 23rd we left together - about fifty Sisters of the Franciscan Sisters of Saint Anne - and crossed our region, stopping especially in the places most threatened by violence", explains Sister Florence Atieno Ochieng, assistant Superior of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Anne (FSSA) for the Kisumu region to Fides about the original initiative of a group of women religious in Kenya to spread a climate of peace and prevent riots before, during and after tomorrow's August 9 elections. The march was initiated by the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters in collaboration with the Association of Sisters of Kenya (AOSK), a body that gathers consecrated women whose mission is to foster mutual support and promote authentic evangelical witness through sustainable programs, and with Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The special pilgrimage was held to commemorate the horrific events that took place during the 2017 elections in Kenya, particularly in the Kisumu region, where clashes between police and protesters resulted in deaths and injuries.
"We encountered many people, over 500 in all," said Sister Florence Atieno Ochieng weuuter, "and even the most violent and threatening accepted our peace proposal and the words we addressed to them. In the places most at risk, people were upset because they feared fraud and vote theft. We tried to reassure everyone and insisted on the concept of personal responsibility. In other words, we declared that peace must first be within ourselves".
The initiative, supported and launched by Kisumu District Deputy District Commissioner William Cheruiyot Langat, traveled through more than 10 neighborhoods identified as potential hotspots for violence in the district. The peace caravan was also joined by priests and faithful from the parish of St. Joseph Milimani in the Archdiocese of Kisumu. "The caravan", continues the nun, "was followed by many people. Alongside the march, we organized three consecutive days of peace talks on Radio Maria Kisumu to raise people's awareness of the importance of promoting peace in every way during the electoral period. Local politicians urged us to repeat this type of initiative. We want to promote social harmony at this time, but also make people aware that peace cannot be achieved through violence. We would like to emphasize that the consequences of violence always hit first the weakest and most vulnerable, children, women and disabled, who are unable to escape or protect themselves". (LA) (Agenzia Fides, 8/8/2022)