The mission parish of St. Charles Lwanga lies within the apostolic vicariate of Isiolo, in north-east Kenya, in a majority Muslim area where Catholics make up a minority of roughly 5%. The parish was established in 2005 â€“ the same year that the then apostolic vicar, Bishop Luigi Locati was murdered during a time of local inter-tribal unrest. There are constant tensions in the region between farmers and herders, but at the same time, there is a degree of hostility and rejection among the Muslim population towards the Christians.
Despite this, the parish of St. Charles Lwanga is a very lively one. Every Sunday there are over 700 Catholic faithful attending Holy Mass, and most of them are children or young people. The number of people seeking baptism is growing each year. The priests of the parish have come up with a number of creative ways of conveying the faith into the hearts of the people. For example, every Sunday there is a competition for the best retelling of Bible stories. Every day, from Friday to Sunday, there are catechetical sessions. Workshops are also organised to address some of the cultural customs, traditions and preconceptions that are harmful to the people‘s development and contrary to the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. During the week, the priests also make visits to the families, wherever they happen to be, along with their herds of livestock. It is important for these Catholics to know their faith and be strong in it, since as a religious minority they face considerable resistance and hostility. On top of this, some Muslims have even tried to draw Christians away from their faith by offering various kinds of material incentives. For example, they promise to give a camel to anyone who will renounce the Christian faith.
(Children process in front of Bishop Anthony Ireri Mukobi during the blessing of the new parish church of St Peter's in Chechelesi © Aid to the Church in Need)
The parish has four outstations. One of them, St Peter in Chechelesi, is developing so dynamically that it has been decided to establish it as an independent parish. It is a township in which many former nomadic peoples have now settled, since there is a well here. For some time now it has been a great dream of the local people to be able to build their own church. Although they have organised fundraising gatherings called Harambees the community had not been able to raise the necessary funds to build the Church. Given that 90% of the people in this drought affected region are extremely poor and live on less than a dollar a day, this was hardly surprising.
But thanks to the generosity of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), it has been possible to make their dream a reality. The new church has been consecrated by the bishop, and the event was marked with great joy and celebrations. ACN contributed over $70,000 for the church to be completed. Needless to say, the people of the new parish of St Peter in Chechelesi are overjoyed to have a church where they can now fittingly worship God.
The vital work of Catholic charities like Aid to the Church In Need provide a lifeline to the Church wherever she is poor, persecuted or threatened. Please help our work by donating online or send your donation to Aid to the Church in Need, PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153. Ph: (02) 9679-1929
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