Monday, August 23, 2010

Kaiser stood firm for the weak

Kenya: Kaiser Stood Firm for the Weak

Noah Cheploen

18 August 2010

Nairobi — Tears well in her eyes when she speaks about the life and times of Fr John Kaiser. Ms Jane Wanjiru Njenga was a cook at the Enoosupukia Catholic Church where Fr Kaiser preached for a couple of years and has nothing but fond memories of the priest who was assassinated 10 years ago.

The priest was found dead a few metres from the Nairobi-Nakuru road on August 24, 2000, with his shot gun beside his body. Grand celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of his death are slated for Thursday at Nairobi's Holy Family Minor Basilica.

"He identified himself with the poor and those in distress and was determined to uplift their lives," Ms Njenga says, sadness written all over her face. "He defended us with his life. Even when he was battered in the night he soldiered on," says Ms Njenga.

Strong-minded, determined, kind-hearted, prayerful and charitable is how she describes Fr Kaiser -- an outspoken critic of the Moi regime. "He was tall and very strong. They needed many police to handcuff him. Fr Kaiser was well built," Mr John Njenga who was once an internally displaced person at Maela camp interjects.

One day, Mr Njenga recalls the local chief summoning the priest into his office and demanding to know from him why he had allowed evictees from Enoosupukia to stay in the church. "But as was characteristic of him Fr Kaiser publicly dismissed the chief," he explains.

A teary Ms Njenga, who cooked for the priest, takes up the story. "Fr Kaiser told the chief that just as he was in charge of the location, he too was in control of the church compound and what happens there."

According to her, Fr Kaiser uttered these words as he defiantly walked away from the administrator. The administrator did not take the action by the priest kindly and in the night police from the chief's camp stormed the church and beat him senseless.

"We are pained by his grisly murder especially considering that we are yet to be settled fully. We have so many problems and I wish he was still alive," says Ms Njenga.

IDPs still crying for justice

The former IDPs are crying for justice 10 years after the death of Fr Kaiser. They were allocated land at Moi-Ndabi settlement scheme but many of them are living in poverty because of the harsh weather conditions there. "When I remember the fertile lands in Enoosupukia I feel bad because this place is rocky and you cannot get anything out of it," says Mr Njenga.

Meanwhile, Nakuru Diocese Bishop Maurice Makumba Muhatia believes that those responsible for Fr Kaiser's death will one day be punished for their actions. An inquest dismissed the suicide theory peddled by the government saying the American priest had been murdered.

On Wednesday, Bishop Muhatia said the Church was still living the dream of Fr Kaiser through a silent but effective method. It had intensified its fight against social injustices by defending the poor. "It is only the methodology which has changed," he said.

He said the church had shifted from active public advocacy by empowering and enlightening the people at the grassroots. "We're still promoting Fr Kaiser's cause but at the level of institutions such as schools and health," he added. "We are well aware that nothing much is going on but the spirit and the desire is being carried out at levels of the church," he said.

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