Finding God in the 'mess' of violence in Kenya

The latest attacks in Kenya have highlighted the dangers to both Kenyans and visitors. The murder of 48 locals in the coastal town of Mpeketoni yesterday is reinforcing the climate of mistrust and fear in the country. But for Jesuits working in Nairobi, these events have emphasised the importance of their work in peace building and reconciliation.

“For those of us missioned here, nothing is achieved by becoming paralysed with fear,” says Fr Peter Knox SJ of Hekima College in Nairobi. “Rather, some Jesuits approach the social situation in a typically Ignatian manner – trying to find where God is in the mess.”

The Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations (HIPSIR) in Hekima College is helping people to analyse the conflict in Kenya and elsewhere in the African continent.  Fortuitously located in the capital, the college was founded in 1984 as the Jesuit School of Theology for African scholastics training for the priesthood. It marked its 20th anniversary in 2004 by opening HIPSIR, where each student on its MA programme has to conduct original research in one area of conflict. The programme includes courses in human rights law, diplomacy, economics and international relations. It approaches conflict from various perspectives, including African culture, identity and the ethics of war. And it has a strong emphasis on conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

“Hekima was originally conceived as a house of formation for Jesuits training for the priesthood to study theology in an African context,” explains Fr Knox. “But from the start, its doors were open to religious from many other congregations and religious families.  Its Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations will hopefully help people to understand conflicts better so that we can all become more tolerant of differences, find ways to avoid future conflict and heal some of the conflicts that plague our continent.”

Fr Peter Knox SJ is a Jesuit priest from South Africa, a Region of the British Province of the Society of Jesus. Read more in the forthcoming issue of the magazine of the Jesuits in Britain, Jesuits and Friends.

PHOTO: The mural of the Risen Christ in the chapel of Hekima College in NairobI