Thursday, April 19, 2012

Esther Mombo starts us off

Kabarak University campus
Every morning it is the responsibility of a different area of the Quaker world to offer a one and a half hour period of morning worship and the week began, appropriately, with East Africa.
Theologian Esther Mombo of Bware Yearly Meeting brought the message which set out the context and issues that face us during our time together. She grew up in a Quaker family in western Kenya, and credits her mother and grandmother in particular for nurturing her faith. She attended what is now Friends’ Theological College in Kaimosi and went on to postgraduate study in Europe, where she was able to attend the 1997 FWCC Triennial gathering in Birmingham.
She greeted us as people who speak many tongues, but who, this week, are speaking in one tongue.
Some of the highlights of her message for me were:
Salt and Light were, and still are, important metaphors.
The context of Jesus’ time was discrimination and marginalization, and that is still the context in which we live. We have divided ourselves by race and ethnicity, which can be used to exclude. In this situation, we Friends have to be Salt and Light.
A major challenge for Christians is how to live in peace with neighbors of other faiths, especially, at the current time, with Muslims. Christians are called to live at peace with their neighbors.
Another is denominational rivalries, and, among Friends, rivalry and tensions.
The social context in which we live includes:
  • disintegration of families and communities; 
  • the impact of some diseases to marginalize; 
  • human trafficking, which is modern slavery;
  • sex tourism
  • gender injustice which still exists even when there are laws prohibiting it;
  • medicine is unreachable for some people.
  • sexual minorities continue to live in fear of marginalization, in the name of religious community;
  • environmental degradation which is creating dustbowls.
There is extreme poverty in both rural and urban areas, and the gap is increasing. ‘Some can make ends overlap, while some cannot make ends meet
Conflict, violence and war are endemic in most of our communities, in homes and in the wider world. There are ethnic clashes, ‘ethnic cleansing’ and genocide.
In all this, we are called to be Salt and Light.
Quakers were a group who challenged the ills of their day.
Quakers were among the first who said that women were humans.
Early Friends were Salt and Light in their own context. In the 21st century, much of that zeal has died. Yet we read in scripture that if salt has lost its effectiveness, it is only good to be trampled underfoot.
Some Christians take pride in statistics. The issue is not numbers, but influence. There is a disconnect with what is preached. There is more pride in numbers than what we do.
It was said of the Christians in Antioch ‘See how they love each other.’ Not ‘See how they talk about loving each other.’ 
Some traditions give life; other traditions need to be done away with. 
The context of Salt and Light is brokenness, rottenness. 
You don’t see salt; you see its results. Society will be influenced by us. We influence by being.
But the salt has to be contaminated, to be mixed in, to be effective. We have to get involved.
Light is different. It is visible. We shine better when there is darkness, not light.
By avoiding issues, we are hiding our light under a bushel.
Don’t complain about the darkness: light a candle!


  1. Just a thank-you for your report from someone who couldn't be there.

  2. She was amazing. So thoughtful, clear, and compelling. And really important for the whole conference to hear this from an African woman theologian.

    I was honored to hear her that morning. I hope to actually talk to her this week.


  3. Thank you for this summary. Fun to read two months later!