News from Turkana
Fr Steven Ochieng from Turkana was the celebrant at Mass on Pentecost Sunday. Fr Steven works with people in their struggle over water, poverty and tribal conflict on the borders of Kenya and has visited Stonyhurst before. In his homily he spoke of the energy and strength which comes from the Holy Spirit in our Christian lives.
Fr Steven’s diocese and missionary community has accompanied people in their suffering and need over the past 50 years. “The Church has been a sign of hope and salvation in witnessing, in a concrete way - feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, bringing education and providing health care among other things” said Fr Steven. “A lot has yet to be done to diversify livelihoods and to plant the seed of Christ in the hearts of the people.”
The Missionary Community of St. Paul the Apostle faces many challenges: in May last year, the on-going conflict between the Turkana from Kenya and the Dassenach from Ethiopia - both in Fr Steven’s parish – escalated, and in one day 32 lives were lost. This was followed by a bad drought in the region and many crops and animals died. Fortunately the arrival of aid averted a serious famine and food was distributed to the most vulnerable.
The root cause of this conflict is competition for scarce resources, state neglect, arms proliferation, and socio-economic marginalization. In Fr Steven’s words: “… the Parish of Our Lady Queen of Peace has been standing tall amid all his turmoil, trying to reverse the negative dynamics into a virtuous circle by increasing the choices of the people and creating more resources in announcing the Good News of the Risen Christ. We have increased our mobile clinics among the Dassanech. Three nutritional units have been opened in villages in the Turkana, where more than 200 children are fed and given basic education daily. We have also built 25 new boats that have increased the fishing activities and improved the level of life of several families. We have also built 2 earth dams and another one is being built; this will increase the number of water points for the people and reduce the tension over scarce water sources.”
A boarding school has also been established at the parish, for 20 children from 6 to 8 years and from both sides of the divide: most are orphans or from families displaced by the conflict. As well as receiving an education, it is hoped that rapport and closer ties can be established. Students from Stonyhurst have taught English at the school in recent years.
It was good to see Fr Steven again. His energy, humour and faith are an inspiration.