With 7000 young Africans in Nairobi Taizé creates a sign of peace

Nairobi, November 30, 2008

A new youth meeting organized by the Community of Taizé, an African stage of the “Pilgrimage of Trust”, has gathered 7000 participants from the 26th – 30th of November. This was the second international meeting organised by the Taizé Community in Africa, after one in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1995. The young people were welcomed in more than 2500 families from the Greater Nairobi area. Nairobi youth groups from 80 parishes of different Christian churches prepared the morning program on the theme “Together seeking paths of hope.” All common activities took place in the afternoons on the Queen of Apostles Minor Seminary compound in Kasarani. Multiple workshops took place each afternoon and the youth contributed in very significant numbers. Hundreds of residents from Nairobi joined the meeting for the common prayers and workshops.

For the majority of youth, this meeting was their first trip. Many undertook a long journey by bus: up to two days and two nights for those from Burundi. Mechanical problems and long waits at the border did not discourage anyone. The ability to adapt, to live each moment with joy, and to help one another enabled everyone to face the challenges of the journey.

In the diversity of the “Africas” represented, thirty young Masai wearing their traditional red blankets and carrying their customary clubs attracted attention. They are the first Christians in their families. Ecumenical groups came from South Africa, Zambia and Madagascar. A number of youth came from Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Mozambique and Sudan. The many provinces of Kenya were also well represented: from Mombassa, on the Indian Ocean all the way to Lake Victoria, from the foothills of Kilimanjaro to the arid plains of Turkana in the north… 130 youth from Europe, North America and Asia (China, Korea, India…) contributed to the diversity of people represented.

Twenty participants from Kivu (Goma and Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo), crossed three borders with a simple ‘pass’. Their presence clearly reflected the desire and the capacity of young people to overcome barriers and meet to contribute to brotherly relations in a region overwhelmed by tension and division. The capability to meet and exchange with simplicity and ease was a sign of peace.

Local solutions were applied to all logistical challenges (transportation, food, security…). A camp kitchen was constructed on site with a team working day and night. More than 120 buses worked morning and evening to transport the participants from the parishes to the central venue.

During the common prayers, the crowd moved from the exuberant songs of rhythm and dance to the meditative refrains of Taizé and long moments of silence. Pastor Njoroge, Assistant Secretary General of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, participated in the prayer on Thursday. Cardinal John Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi, participated on Friday alongside Mgr Lebeaupin, Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya. In his address to the youth, the cardinal encouraged the participants to “be inspired by the central message of the bible: love your neighbour as yourself. We are all sons and daughters of God, you are all precious.”

Brother Alois, prior of Taizé, gave an icon of Jesus and his friend to a representative from each of the 15 African countries present (copies of an Egyptian icon of the sixth century) during the last common prayer. The icon will accompany these young people on their local pilgrimages to places of suffering and hope. It will remind them that Christ always remains at their side.

The meeting ended on Sunday 30 November with a celebration in the host parishes and meals in the families.

Taizé brothers lived in Kenya (in Mathare and Kangemi) from 1978 until 1989. Brother Roger (founder of Taize) first visited Kenya in November and December 1978 and a second time in December, 1987.

Workshops

- Silence and personal prayer: bible meditation followed by time for personal reflection.
- Discovering God’s call, receiving his gift and his trust. What way is God opening up for me in my life?
- How to read the Bible? How to live it out? Reflection followed by a time of sharing in small groups.
- What is faith? What are the challenges and the opportunities for believers today?
- Young people seek autonomy in life: examples of self reliance projects.
- What responsibilities can I take up as a young person today (at home, in our communities, in our churches)?
- Healing our wounds, finding peace of heart: reconciliation in ourselves and around us. Sharing of experiences.
- Refusing violence, building peace: sharing of experiences from different countries.
- What can we do and share with Muslim believers? Testimonies and sharing.
- Making city life more beautiful: reflection and sharing with people working in United Nations Habitat.
- Maintaining hope in the midst of life’s difficulties (refugee, ex-prisoner…)
- Meeting Christ in others. What importance does service have in our life? How can we help others whether near or far?
- “We who are many are one body in Christ.” What is the Church? What can we do in order to contribute to reconciliation and unity in our Christian communities? Reflection and sharing.
- How can we help others to discover faith: testimonies and sharing of experiences in small groups.
- Who am I? How does Christ help us to discover our identity? How does faith help us build our life?
- Small Christian communities: testimonies from different countries.
- Sharing hope: presentations by theatre groups from different countries.
- Celebrating the diversity of cultures: international forum with contributions from different countries and provinces of Kenya (dance, song, music…)

For more information:
Brothers of Taizé
Mji wa Furaha
ph: +254 720 132 017

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