This is the letter that Rev. Brian Kiely, current President of the ICUU and member of the teaching staff, is circulating about the upcoming Leadership Conference for emerging Unitarian and Universalist congregations in Central Africa:
Dear Friends and Colleagues.
[On Sunday, February 3rd,] right after church I leave for Nairobi, Kenya in advance of the ICUU African Leadership School which starts Thursday. The international faculty will work with 60 participants from Congo, Burundi, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya. As you will probably know there is deep sadness and distress Kenya That nation has been the poster child for peace, stability and democracy in Africa since not long after independence in the 1960's. However a disputed and arguably blatantly stolen presidential election on December 27 has sparked waves of tribally based violence. Over 800 are dead and thousands more are homeless. Most significantly there has been a widespread collapse of the social safety net. As always, it is the very poor who are being harmed the most. While most parts of Nariobi are safe, especially for Caucasians, we struggled long and hard with the decision to go ahead this week. The concern was the safety of the students. The vast majority are eager to attend despite the obstacles, so we are going ahead, carefully and hopefully.
I would ask for your prayers, your thoughts, your candles of concern for all of us making this historic journey.
A UUSC team has just returned from fact-finding mission to Kenya. You can read Charlie Clement's excellent blog.
In case you are interested our faculty is led by Rev. Jill McAllister (USA) and includes Rev. David Usher (England), Rev. Gordon Oliver (South Africa). All three are past presidents of the ICUU. We also have Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt of New York. We had hoped to have a member from Transylvania and one from India, but a combination of newborns and visa problems made that impossible. We will also have an observer from UUSC and the UUA and will be joined by ICUU Executive Director John Clifford.
This is an expensive exercise for an organization with ICUU's small budget. The majority of funds have been raised from individuals and congregations across North America and Great Britain. As well, most of the faculty have raised all or part of their own travel expenses. We are still several thousand dollars short. Following the conference Jill McAllister and I will be renewing our fundraising efforts with, among other things, a downloadable media presentation. If you feel called to contribute to this n some way, please contact John Clifford and he will let you know the best way to do so for your country of residence.
I will do my best to keep in touch over the next two weeks. We hope to be able to set up a blog, and I will let you know how to access it when I have details. Otherwise I'll keep in touch via this chatline.
Unitarian Church of Edmonton
President, International Council of Unitarians and Universalists