Wednesday, September 20, 2000

Understanding the Church

Women of Kenya
"Women of Kenya Today,"
courtesy Africa Online
  • The Church in Kenya: Email Directory
    Maintained by J. Mutiso-Mbinda

  • Africa Online: Kenya

  • Directory of this Page:
  • Death of Fr. John Kaiser: St. Cloud Diocese Press Release
  • Death of Fr. John Kaiser: Associated Press
  • Fr. John Kaiser Remembered by Colleagues
    Fr. John Anthony Kaiser
  • Fr. John Kaiser: AP September Update
  • Fr. John Kaiser: LINKS TO OTHER SITES
  • Fr. Kaiser Honored by Kenya Law Society (March 2000)
  • Kenya Catholic Peace and Justice Commission
  • HARVEST FOR HOPE: St. Cloud, Minnesota and Houma Bay, Kenya
    Return to Top of Page

    August, 2000, Diocese of St. Cloud Press Release
    Minnesota priest, Father John Kaiser, Murdered in Kenya

    Father John Kaiser, an outspoken critic of the government of president Moi in Kenya, was found shot to death in western Kenya Thursday morning. The 67 year-old native Minnesotan served in Kenya for 36 years.

    According to the Mill Hill Missionaries, Father Kaiser's missionary community, Father Kaiser arrived at their center house in Nairobi on Wednesday visibly upset. He confided that he feared for his life. Father Kaiser left the Mill Hill House and went to the Bishop's house in Ngong, Kenya. He took a few provisions from his room, which indicated that he planned to stay elsewhere for awhile, and left again without saying where he was going.

    Thursday morning, an anonymous phone call to the Bishop's house stated that Father Kaiser had been shot dead in Naivasha. A police inspector also called the Bishop's house with the news. Father Kaiser was found dead in his own car with a gun beside him. Kenyan police are investigating. The police commander in charge stated, "We are treating this as murder."

    Father Kaiser gained prominence in Kenya as an advocate for thousands of people who had their land and property summarily taken in recent years.

    In working directly with these displaced people, he gathered and publicly presented documentation that connected this land grabbing to highly placed government officials. Testifying before a special Kenya government commission last year, Father Kaiser accused two Cabinet ministers of promoting tribal clashes and seizing land vacated during the fighting.

    Father Kaiser received national recognition from the Kenya Law Society when they presented him with the prestigious "Award for Distinguished Service in the Promotion of Human Rights" in March, 1999.

    In November of 1999, he narrowly escaped deportation. The Kenyan government agreed to renew his work permit, normally routine for foreign priests working in Kenya, after the Roman Catholic Church and civil rights groups accused the government of trying to silence the priest.

    Bishop John F. Kinney of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota, announced Thursday, during a Mass in St. Cloud, that Father John Kaiser had been "brutally murdered in Kenya," and called Kaiser a "martyr of the church." A delegation from the Diocese of St. Cloud visited western Kenya in March. Bishop Kinney and others met and discussed the situation in Kenya with Father Kaiser during that visit.

    Father Bill Vos, director of the St. Cloud Catholic Mission Office, was a close personal friend of Father Kaiser's. "When I received word early Thursday morning of John Kaiser's death, I was not surprised," said Father Vos. "I knew his life was in jeopardy and had shared with him on more than one occasion about the very real possibility that he would be killed. He knew that by implicating some of the most powerful people in Kenya in serious human rights abuses he was putting his life in danger."

    However, Father Vos said he was devastated by the news. "It was still a terrific shock, especially for someone so vibrantly alive and so totally dedicated to giving of himself for others," he said. "It was all the more tragic given the circumstances of his death, and to hear how he was so brutally murdered," added Father Vos.

    Father Vos, who himself served in east Africa for 19 years, said "I join with Father Kaiser's family and friends in our deep grief over his loss, but I also believe we can be very proud that we have given a modern day martyr to the church." He expressed his conviction that "John's death will be a source of empowerment and new life for the good people of Kenya, particularly those who are struggling for a more just society."

    Both in the Kisii and Ngong dioceses, Father Kaiser, a member of the Society of St. Joseph (popularly known as "Mill Hill") worked to obtain justice for the ordinary people of Kenya who have no voice and live in remote areas. For more than three decades in eastern Africa, he was a hard working priest who assisted in the construction of schools and dispensaries to better the quality of human life for Kenyans. Fluent in both the Kisii and Kiswahili languages, he was deeply involved in community affairs and an outspoken civil rights advocate.

    Father John Anthony Kaiser was born in Perham, Minnesota, on November 29, 1932, into a family of four children -- three boys and one girl. He grew-up in rural Underwood, and was a member of St. James parish in Maine, Minnesota.

    Father Kaiser studied at St. John's Preparatory School in Collegeville, Minnesota 1951-53, and at St. John's University in Collegeville 1956-57. He was awarded a degree in philosophy at St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri, in 1960. In 1960, he went to Mission Hill, London, England to study theology, and returned to St. Louis where he was ordained a Catholic priest in 1964. After his ordination, Father Kaiser was appointed to the Kisii Diocese in western Kenya. In 1993 he was transferred to the Ngong Diocese. Father Kaiser served in Kenya for 36 years, and died at the age of 67.

    St. Cloud Bishop John F. Kinney will celebrate a memorial Mass in honor of Father John Kaiser, Friday, September 1, 11:00 a.m., at Father Kaiser's home parish, the Church of St. James in Maine, Minnesota.

    Return to Top of Page

    Minnesotan sought social justice

    By ANDREW ENGLAND, Associated Press


    In his last few hours, the Rev. John Kaiser -- described by colleagues as a fearless man -- appeared nervous and agitated for the first time in his decades-old crusade for social justice in Kenya.

    It was as if the Minnesota native knew what was coming.

    When the 67-year-old priest's body was found along a highway with a gunshot to the back of the head, Kenyan human rights activists immediately called his death a political assassination -- and a clear warning to those who would follow in his footsteps.

    ``He was worried about his safety,'' said Brother Martin Van Leeuwen, who last saw Kaiser on Wednesday at a mission in Nairobi belonging to the Mill Hill Missionaries, the religious society to which they both belonged.

    ``Since this time he came to Nairobi he was different from the other times, restless, worried. He did not express his fears, but you could see he was different,'' said Van Leeuwen, who worked alongside Kaiser for a quarter century.

    An outspoken critic of the Kenyan government's human rights record during his 36 years as a missionary in the East African nation, Kaiser had recently been involved in a rape case brought against a prominent politician.

    Kaiser's cousin Bill Schulz said the native of Underwood, in northwestern Minnesota, ``knew he would die in Kenya.''

    Whoever killed him may have been trying to silence him, said Carolita Mahoney, Kaiser's sister from Underwood. But his death will reveal to the world the corruption her brother fought so long.

    ``He's been assassinated. He's a martyr,'' Mahoney said. His death has drawn outrage from human rights activists, and has prompted the United States to send officials to Kenya to investigate.

    On Wednesday evening, a visibly agitated Kaiser left Nairobi, despite pleas from Van Leeuwen to stay and leave in the morning.

    The last time Kaiser was heard from was when he reached the residence of the bishop of the diocese of Ngong, 15 miles west of the capital.

    He left there between 6:30 and 7 p.m. Wednesday to make what should have been a six-hour drive to his mission in Lolgorien, 150 miles west of Nairobi.

    Twelve hours later, police found his body lying beside his pickup truck near Naivasha, 40 miles north of Ngong, his head virtually blown off by a shotgun. His blood was still fresh and the shotgun was found beside him.

    ``Police told us there had been a struggle, he had tried to save himself . . . and the car had been forced off the road by another car,'' Van Leeuwen said. ``With hindsight, he did not feel safe anyplace where he was.''

    When news of Kaiser's death reached Nairobi, speculation was rife about who was responsible.

    Since the mid-1990s, the priest's life was surrounded in controversy, mainly from his vocal criticism of President Daniel arap Moi's government.

    ``Who in Kenya was desperate to kill Father Kaiser and why now? They could only be very powerful people who saw him as a moral thorn in their evil flesh,'' Kenya Human Rights Network said Friday, condemning what it called a ``political execution.''

    In testimony before a special government commission earlier this year, Kaiser accused two Cabinet ministers of fomenting bloody tribal clashes between 1991 and 1997 in the Rift Valley, adding that the ministers had stolen land from those forced to flee.

    In recent months, Kaiser actively supported two young parishioners who brought rape accusations against Julius ole Sunkuli, a close Moi ally and minister of state who is widely considered the president's chosen successor. Kaiser advised the women, both under 18, to consult a lawyer.

    Sunkuli, who was accused in court of statutory rape on June 23, is expected to appear in court again on Thursday, when a judge will decide if there is enough evidence to bring him to trial. It was not known if Kaiser would have been called as a witness or if his recent fears were related to the case.

    The slaying has shaken human rights activists, who consider it a warning, said Elna Mwau of the Coalition of Violence Against Women, which also supported the rape victims.

    Kaiser knew for a long time that there might be a price on his head but treated it in a ``semi-jokey'' manner -- until recently, said Mill Hill's East African representative, Father Cornelius Schilder.

    ``On this last visit he was much more serious,'' Schilder said. ``It's a terrible blow to our aspirations because peace and justice to us is of prime importance and John Kaiser was our spearhead of all this. He spoke out on the Sunkuli case and the land clashes. . . . It's an enormous setback.''

    Kaiser, described as a hardworking man dedicated to his congregation who wore ordinary, often patched-up clothes, helped the girls simply because they were his parishioners, Van Leeuwen said.

    ``He was working for the people when these things came up in the framework of justice and peace,'' Van Leeuwen said. ``He was a martyr for the faith.''

    An unpublished booklet written by Kaiser, held by an old high school classmate now living in Edina, offers a glimpse at the priest's world. Titled ``Maela,'' after a town in Kenya, it details how the ruling government violently evicted farmers from the coveted Rift Valley and the turmoil the farmers faced. Kaiser feared the consequences if the booklet was published, so he left it with Donald Montgomery during a 1997 visit to Minnesota.

    Despite his fears, it appears Kaiser was seeking justice, Montgomery said.

    ``John was a modern John the Baptist who flew in the face of the horrid Moi,'' Montgomery said.

    It came at a cost. Kaiser visited his former classmate from St. John's Preparatory School in Collegeville, Minn., in 1997. During his trip he talked about being arrested, beaten and the different illnesses he suffered while in Kenya. But he was driven by the stories of victimized people, Montgomery said.

    An autopsy is scheduled for today and a memorial service was planned for next week. Kaiser will be buried in Kenya as he would have wished, Van Leeuwen said. A memorial service also was planned for Sept. 1 at St. James Catholic Church in Maine, Minn.

    ``People in Kenya would be so disappointed if he was buried anywhere else,'' Montgomery said, ``because it would be taking a saint away.''

    Return to Top of Page

    Colleagues Remember Fr. John Kaiser

    There will be three services, first at the Basilica in Nairobi, next day at the cathedral of the Ngong Diocese where John was assigned. Then finally out in the small village in Masaai Land where John lived. He himself picked a spot out in that very beautiful area for his final resting place. He and I both loved that area more than any place in East Africa, just a pristine setting, with all the awesome African wild life that was so much a part of John.
    (Fr. Bill Vos, Diocese of St. Cloud)

    FROM NIGERIA: "I just returned from leave in Minnesota at the end of July. People asked if I was in danger. I personally have not felt danger, but any of us who speak the gospel truth know the danger is real. Here in Nigeria there have been Muslim-Christian riots. In Kaduna shortly before I went on leave, a Nigerian priest of the Archdiocese of Kaduna was brutally murdered similar to the way Fr. Kaiser was killed. Here, Fr. Bello was killed because he was convert from Islam, ordained a priest only one year. Christians are a minority here in Northern Nigeria, where many of the States are passing laws supporting the Islamic Sharia code. Christians are not given equal rights in this situation. Many Christian Pastors, especially from the Pentecostal churches, have suffered and some have died during these months of difficulty. The Christian Association of Nigeria has not been afraid to speak out against abuse. One of my Nigerian Dominican colleagues here in Gusau is Chairperson of the Zamfara State Branch of CAN. We cannot back away from seeking equal rights for every citizen of every nation.

    "My sympathy goes out to Fr. Bill and fellow missionaries from Minnesota, and especially to the Kaiser Family. The blood of the martyrs continues to nourish the Church everywhere. We know it is real when it touches home. Peace in Christ Jesus."
    - Gilbert Thesing, OP

    "I was privileged to have known John for many years in East Africa. He was fearless and gave his life for the Kenyan people. John Kaiser is certainly a missionary martyr for social justice and human rights. I celebrated the Eucharist for John at the Carmelite Monastery in Baltimore, Maryland on Friday, 25 August. Our prayers continue.

    "I want to take this opportunity to praise and thank St. Cloud Diocese, Minnesota (especially Bishop John F. Kinney and Father Bill Vos, Director of the St. Cloud Catholic Mission Office) for their interest in, and commitment to, mission throughout the world. The commitment of St. Cloud Diocese to missionaries from Minnesota around the world (such as John Kaiser and many Maryknollers that I know personally) and the fostering of mutual communications is an inspiration and example for all USA dioceses.

    Fr. Joseph G. Healey, M.M., Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

    Return to Top of Page

    (As published in the Daytona Beach News Journal, Sunday, September 10, 2000)

    American priest's killing incites Kenyan opposition

    of The Associated Press

    LOLGORIEN, Kenya-- John Kaiser was a beefy, beaming Minnesotan -- a paratrooper and wrestler who became a priest:, tie loved to hunt buffalo on the Serengeti Plain. In his younger years, he would bounce from Mass to Mass on a motorcycle over the dusty roads of western Kenya.

    He had left the family farm 36 years ago with a passion for God, wilderness and adventure, and had come to build churches and schools in a country newly independent of British rule. A conservative Catholic of intense faith, the parish priest lived ascetically, and what he saw happening to Kenya turned him into a crusader for social justice. As malignant corruption took hold, he saw the people he loved victimized by political violence and power-hungry leaders. He watched as drought and AIDS ravaged the country. He attacked the government and made dangerous enemies.

    He seemed well aware of the risk. On Aug. 22, just betbm leaving his remote mission in the village of Lolgorien for a meeting m the capital, Naif obi, the Rev. Kaiser, 67, told his helpers: "Pray for me, for my life is in danger. But remember, faith is more important than the blood of people in this world."

    Two days later he was found dead by a busy highway with a gunshot wound in the head.

    Fr. John Kaiser

    Since 1997, Kaiser had been hearing from parishioners that more than a dozen girls aged 14 to 16 had dropped out of school, allegedly after having sex with a high-ranking politician.

    Two of the girls, now adults, approached Kaiser, who introduced them to the International Federation of Women Lawyers-Kenya, known by its French acronym FIDA. The two women gave depositions, and FIDA began a private prosecution for rape against Julius ole Sunkuli, minister of state in the president's office.

    Sunkuli, 39, who has been tipped as a possible successor to -President Daniel arap Mot, strenuously denied the allegations. Mot said the case should be dismissed.

    The judge postponed making a decision on whether to allow a trial until Aug. 31. In late July, the woman announced she was dropping the case. Paul Muite, a prominent attorney and opposition member of parliament, mid Kaiser told him in late July about death threats.

    On Aug. 23, in Nairobi, Kaiser went to dinner at the home of Bishop Colin Davis, but lelt unexpectedly before eating, and without saying where he was going.

    The next morning, near the town of Naivasha, a twohour drive from Nairobi, his body was found. His double-barreled shotgun lay at his side.

    Naivasha police said they instantly realized the crime scene had been staged to look like a suicide. Commandant Andrew Kimetto ordered a murder investigation. Kaiser's allies called it a political assassination.

    The man from Perham, Minn., was a man for all seasons. A philosophy graduate of St. Louis University in Missouri, he was also a mason and bricklayer who built a dozen simple churches across western Kenya. He was a paratroop sergeant in the U.S. Army, and became a priest in 1964. He immediately joined the Mill Hil1 Missionaries of the Society of St. Joseph.

    Stationed in the Kisii diocese, near the Masai Mara game reserve, Kaiser fell in love with the breathtaking hills, the endless open plains and the warm, welcoming Kisii people, said Carolita Mahoney, his sister, who came here for the funeral.

    His transformation from remote parish priest to nationally known human rights campaigner began in 1994, when he was assigned to the Maela refugee camp, where farmers had taken refuge after being pushed off their land.

    Government officials blamed the dispute on tribalism. Kaiser gathered material purporting to show the fighting was part of a land-grab scheme orchestrated by Cabinet ministers.

    Kaiser later provided his documents to a commission established to investigate the clashes. The government has reftreed to release the commission's findings.

    Muite, the attorney, said he was impressed that Kaiser chose to live with the refugees in squalor. When the government decided to break up the camp by force, Kaiser stood in the way.

    "Father Kaiser took all the women and children and put ail of them inside the church and he got m a sleeplng bag and slept in the entrance of the church, so they were unable to forcibly evict them that night," Muite said. "They came back the following night and the authorities beat him up."

    The nationwide shock and anger over Kaiser's death attests to his popularity, as well as the Kenyah public's rising disdain for its political class.

    "Father Kaiser always loved the truth," Bishop Joseph Maitufa said before Kaiser's burial.

    "Because he witnessed the truth, and some powerful people feared the truth, he was killed. Instead of repenting, they killed him."

    Return to Top of Page

    Fr. John Kaiser

    Fr. John Kaiser

  • St. Cloud VISITOR story and editorial
    Return to Top of Page

    Law Society of Kenya

    (Statement in Support of the Award for Distinguished Service
    in the Promotion of Human Rights
    to Father John Anthony Kaiser for the Year 2000)

    This year’s Law Society of Kenya Awards ceremony is a rare departure from its young tradition in that we have only one recipient. But that man is rare, indeed, one of a kind. His name is Father JOHN ANTHONY KAISER. And it is a name we have all heard.

    In conferring upon him the Society’s award for Distinguished Service in the Promotion of human rights for the year 2000, we of the Society consider ourselves specially honored to have known and dealt with this man of God who, like the Biblical Elijah, is a voice of stern rebuke to all those that trouble the people and think it a little matter to deny sovereign citizens their God-given right to live, move and have. To them, he is a poisonous troublemaker, an unwelcome meddler and a pain in the flesh. But to us and to all those that love life and liberty, he is a stalwart defender of the defenseless and a man eminently deserving of honor.

    In his life Father Kaiser has lived for and upheld two ideals namely the universality of human rights and the principle that Kenya citizenship appeals and protects all Kenyan in every part of the Republic of Kenya. In upholding these noble truths in the 1990s in Kenya Father Kaiser repeatedly found himself in trouble. Not that Father Kaiser is a man who goes out of his way to court trouble. To the contrary, he is a retiring, humble and soft-spoken “Mzee.” He is a simple man without pretensions. Seeing him on a normal day one could easily dismiss him for just another tired old man. Though a tall one.

    Those who know him will say he has a totally selfless zeal for the service of others. But they will also tell you that he is a man of singular candour. He is honest and forthright in speech almost to a fault. He would speak that uncomfortable truth with a startling naivete that at once sets you thinking and charms you to a new respect for the man.

    Born in Minnesota, United States of America in 1932 to a German father and Irish Mother, the future Father Kaiser attended a one-roomed school for eight years before he went to a Benedictine secondary school.

    After a two-year stint at a junior college where he studied Greek and Latin, he joined the U.S. Army for some three years. His true calling was elsewhere and he quit to join the St. Louis College where he studied theology and philosophy. This was to be followed by some four years across the Atlantic, studying to become a priest at St. Joseph’s Mill Hill College. Father Kaiser was in 1964 posted to Kenya and specifically to the Kisii Catholic Diocese to which he dedicated 30 years of exemplary and emulable service mostly in the humble hills and valleys of Gusiiland, away from any sort of public limelight.

    Everywhere he went he exhibited the best missionary spirit of uplifting, enlightening and supporting the poor. A strong man physically, he worked with joyful energy setting up churches wherever he went sometimes single-handedly. So thoroughly did he immerse himself in the daily living of the locals that he speaks Ekegusii with a fluency that would put most native speakers of the language to shame. He became in a real sense a much loved if not revered ‘Omogaka’ to the Abagusii among whom he lived and served.

    Come 1993, Father Kaiser was sent to the Ngong Catholic Kiocese his first appointment being to the fateful Maela Refugee Camp for the internally displaced victims of the infamous Tribal Clashes. It was while at Maela that he witnessed at even closer hand some of the mot dastardly and heinous acts of man’s inhumanity to man. Freeborn Kenyans who had been violently and murderously driven out of homes they had lived in all their lives were reduced to the most abject and dehumanizing poverty. He saw disease, despair, hunger and the elements ravish men and women; the young and the aged alike whose only crime was the biological and historical accident of having been born into the ‘wrong’ tribes. Father Kaiser busied himself in trying to alleviate in what small ways he could the anguish of those unfortunate.

    It was while in situ at Maela, and while lawfully engaged in Christian service quite in consonance with the oft repeated credo of being mindful of the welfare of fellow Kenyans that he fell foul of the ubiquitous and often tyrannical Provincial Administration.

    The existence of the Maela Refugee Camp had become an acute embarrassment to the government which was not so keen on having the shocking truth of ethnic cleansing exposed to the watching world. The camp was an eyesore abominable and damning to the Government. Some evil genius in the administration hatched the plan to erase evidence of the very existence of the Camp. Thus, on the 27th of December 1994, those hapless Kenyans, once betrayed, raped, and dispossessed, were betrayed a second time. They were descended upon in a whirlwind government operation that broke up the camp and bundled its inhabitants into trucks that would dump them in stadiums, abandoned playing fields and roadsides in the Central Province. The same bright mind in government had now invented a new term with which these unfortunate victims were baptized: Land Speculators.

    The Naivasha District Officer who spearheaded the Maela mop-up was livid that among those at the camp and who witnessed the wanton dehumanization of the refugees was Father Kaiser. For merely being there and not approving of what the officers of government were doing, Father Kaiser was violently assaulted by those agents of our government, handcuffed, as a common criminal would be removed from the scene. He was held under house arrest with armed men in guard. State-sponsored terrorism is no respecter of persons even when they are harmless parish priests.

    Shortly after Maela, Father Kaiser was posted to Lolgorian Parish in Trans Mara District. And trouble followed him there. It is an abiding if tragic fact of this country’s sociopolitical landscape that no place is safe or tranquil for any honest man of pure convictions. Wherever such people are, the tyrants, sycophants, rapists, tribalists and land grabbers that dot Kenya’s public life will feel uneasy and attempt to make life unbearable for them.

    True to his prophetic calling as a voice for the voiceless and defender of the defenseless among his flock, Father Kaiser found himself on a collision cause with those who had oppressed, displaced, dispossessed and marginalised whole clans of the Maasai in an orgy of systematic and avaricious land-grabbing. His consistent and conscientious stance against this and other evils and ills in Trans Mara was fast gaining a formidable horde of enemies at all levels of the power structure. No less than a powerful cabinet minister saw the hand of good Father Kaiser in allegations of rape or defilement leveled by young girls against the said minister. There is of course no question that it is in the nature of Father Kaiser to insist and demand that any man, no matter his rank, who proves to be a pestilential monster against nubile girls must face justice. It is a very Christian demand.

    Father Kaiser’s gift and burden has been his unshakable commitment to truth and justice. It is there fore not surprising that when the Commission appointed to Investigate the causes of the ethnic cleansing under the Chairmanship of Court of Appeal judge Akiwuni got down to business, he appeared to testify as to what he saw, experienced and heard.

    In his painfully forthright way, the priest told the Commission the horrible things he had witnessed. He recounted tales heart rendering in their pain and outrageous that they should be true. Unquestionably, he was a witness of truth. His testimony was one of a man with a deep and abiding need to see the demons of our national shame exorcised, the ghosts of our innocent dead compatriots finally laid to rest and the tears of their beloved wiped dry at last.

    Inevitably, he categorically and bluntly told the Commission that on the basis of the facts in his possession, responsibility for the horror that was the clashes lay at the highest echelons of state. Mincing no words, he fingered the very heart of State power as the first culprit in this crime against Kenya holding the Government and its trusted lieutenants responsible. Father Kaiser mentioned dates, names, places and times.

    It is a monumental irony that detailed and useful as Father Kaiser’s Testimony was, the Commission thought it violated some in-house rules against mentioning the Head of State and promptly expunged the same from its record.

    Whether offensive to the rules of the Commission or not, and shorn of all the trappings, technicalities and complexities of procedure, Father Kaiser’s experiences and observations in his own words are admissible in the Tribunal of Truth and that of public opinion and, we trust, will some day find judicial admission when those who threatened to dismember Kenya are finally brought to book. His courage, boldness and candour in saying it saying it as it really is cannot have been in vain.

    It is in the aforegoing context that we view the attempt by the Kenya government to deport our hero in late 1999. A day after his testimony at the commission, the agents of terror that he had named and shamed made a public threat that Father Kaiser would be deported from Kenya. Could what followed be related to these threats? Still smarting from the priest’s insistent voice of conscience, someone suddenly remembered that this cleric who may pass for an Ompgusii, a Maasai, a Kalenjin or a Kikuyu and who had lived in Kenya for as long as we have been a republic, was not a Kenyan and, by reason of his inadvertent failure to renew his work permit was deserving of immediate deportation. Evidently our laws on citizenship are in urgent need of revision. For, if Father Kaiser does not qualify for citizenship, who does?

    The move by the Government was amateurish, its sinister and vindictive motivation too transparent to miss. There was an immediate chorus of condemnation of the government’s persecution of the priest from many quarters including Catholic Bishops, the Kenya human Rights Commission and the American Embassy. We are happy to recall the Law Society of Kenya added its voice in demanding that his permit be renewed. We are happier to note with a certain satisfaction that, left with no choice, Government relented and, as you can see, Father Kaiser is still here with us.

    The life and times of Father JOHN ANTHONY KAISER stand out as a study in courage, determination and sacrifice on behalf of the weak, oppressed and down - trodden. He has had the loftiness of ideals to speak out against social ills and defend the native rights and dignity of mankind in the face of callus and blood - chilling abuse. He has paid the price of his convictions in being beaten, arrested, insulted and hounded but has remained true to his conscience. He has stood up to tyrants big and petty and won many battles for which the humble men and women of Kenya for whom he has striven are the happier. And in all this he has retained his cool and has urged victims of violence not to retaliate in kind. Indeed, he is on record as still loving and still praying for his persecutors.

    He does not consider himself a civil rights worker. He would not call himself a human rights activist let alone its champion. He would not admit to all his achievements, which have emboldened and inspired many to love truth, cherish liberty and fight for human rights. Father Kaiser says he is just a simple parish priest. We agree. And we honor him.

    - Dated at Nairobi the 11th day of March 2000. -

    Return to Top of Page

    KENYA Catholic Justice and Peace Commission

    Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2.

    We the Catholic Justice and Peace Commissioners representing 24 Catholic dioceses in Kenya with a population of not less than 8 million Catholics, wish to express our deep concern on the brutal killings of our Priests and other Religious people, who have offered their entire lives to the service of God and His people in Kenya.

    In recent years, we have experienced the brutal murders of Fr. Stallone, Fr. Graife and Fr. Luigi Andeni all of Marsabit diocese. We have further experienced the murder of Brother Larry Timons of Nakuru diocese and that of Fr. Martin Boyle of Eldoret diocese.

    What is shocking is that all these killings have not been explained yet, and the perpetrators have all along, gone scot free.

    On the 24th August, 2000, we yet again lost another humble servant of God - Fr. John Anthony Kaiser of Lorgorian Parish, Ngong diocese. Fr. Kaiser tirelessly advocated for the Rights and values of humanity, for our people in different parts of Kenya. He defended justice, truth and fairness.

    Like St. John the Baptist, who was beheaded to silence the voice of reason, Fr. Kaiser found his head shattered in pieces by the cruel assassin's bullets.

    It is no secret that Fr. Kaiser has been a thorn in the flesh of some senior Kenya government officials and Ministers, for his incessant crusade against social injustices. These include the infamous tribal clashes, where he painfully suffered for his protection of the internally displaced victims of Maela, Gucha and Transmara.

    Fr. Kaiser fearlessly advocated against land grabbing by the same 'mighty and powerful'. Sadly enough, he was also pitted against the same forces especially in his defense against defilement and rape of girls and young women in Transmara.

    We affirm our strong believe that Fr. Kaiser was ordained, anointed and lived the gospel values.' I have come to proclaim the good news, to the poor, bring liberty to the captives and to announce the day of the Lord (Luke 4:17).

    While we cautiously appreciate the on-going joint CID/FBI investigation into the murder, we strongly doubt the seriousness of the Kenyan government, especially in the absence of an official government statement: let alone a message of condolence to his family and friends. The government's reaction, cover-ups of the past such killings and the reckless utterances by some senior government officials and Ministers, compounds our doubts.

    To the American government, we support your initiative of sending FBI investigators to assist in the unearthing of this sad and mysterious murder.

    However, to us, Fr. Kaiser was not just an American citizen. He was also a Kenyan, having served Kenyans for 36 years. We can only therefore, hope and expect that the interests of the U.S government in this murder do not supersede what Kenyans are badly yearning for i.e. Truth and Justice.

    For those who murdered Fr. Kaiser, we pray for your forgiveness but remember, the blood of your innocent victim will haunt your conscience forever. Please come forward and repent.

    While we mourn the demise of our fallen hero of justice and human rights, with his family members and parishioners, with his friends and co-workers, with the people he defended and tirelessly worked for, we want to assure them that the spirit of Fr. Kaiser lives on! If the intention of his beastly murder was to intimidate and instill fear in us, then rest assured that in the name of God, we are neither intimidated nor cowed.

    In fact, our commitment and cause for justice has been strengthened more than before, for we do not fear those who kill the body, but the one who has the power over heaven and earth. Luke 12:4-5.

    To all Kenyans and persons of good will, we ask you to forward any useful information to the CID and FBI investigators or in confidence to all Justice and Peace Commission offices countrywide.

    Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10.

    Return to Top of Page

    Partnership Between St. Cloud Diocese, Minnesota, USA
    and Homa Bay Diocese, Western Kenya

    St. Cloud Diocese in Minnesota has established a recent connection with Homa Bay Diocese in Western Kenya through the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Harvest for Hope partnering. This is the second Harvest for Hope project to be launched. The first was a relationship between Spokane, Washington and Cochabamba, Bolivia.

    The St. Cloud Diocese is an agricultural diocese in Central Minnesota made up of approximately 139 parishes and 39 Catholic schools. The Homa Bay Diocese, located in the southwest part of Kenya on the coast of Lake Victoria, consists of 22 parishes. The partnership entails sharing details of everyday life in each diocese; mutual prayer; reciprocal visits between the two dioceses; and material goods from Minnesota to Kenya.

    As part of the partnership Minnesota farmers will be sharing a portion of their harvest of area crops such as soybeans, corn, oats, wheat or barley with Homa Bay. The crops sent will be a symbolic expression of solidarity. The larger portion of material aid will be in the form of funds to support the Agricultural Environment Program, which serves 2000 small-scale farmers and their families.

    Things are just getting underway in Minnesota. There is a local coordinator and team working on distributing information and encouraging participation. Schools, religious education programs, colleges and universities are being encouraged to participate. Bishop John Kinney strongly supports the partnership. He will be heading up the first local delegation of 15 or so people to visit Homa Bay in March of 2000. Hopefully other trips will follow, not only from Minnesota to Kenya, but also from Kenya to Minnesota. The intent of Harvest for Hope is to build more direct and personal connections between communities in the developing world and communities in the United States.

    Father Richard Leisen summed up the partnership well when he called Harvest for Hope "a good opportunity for people of our diocese to tie in to what is really meaningful in the world and get an understanding of what life is like outside of Minnesota." He added: "To really experience the development of people and to see the richness of their culture is just priceless ... To come in touch with people from around the world is the best way to end prejudice, poverty and wars."

    Rosanne Fischer
    St. Cloud Mission Office
    St. Cloud Diocese, Minnesota

  • Email Mission Office:

  • St. Cloud HARVEST FOR HOPE Home Page
    Other Examples of Parish/Diocese Responses
    Back to Main AFRICA Page
    Parish Without Borders Home Page

    This page hosted by
    Pastoral Arts Associates of North America

    Return to Top of Page