A Christian, a Hindu and a Muslim walk into a club…………………………….
You would be forgiven for thinking that this is the beginning of a joke but its not.
The Christian, Hindu and Muslim belong to the community of Kitale, a mid sized town of about 200,000 people in the Rift Valley province of Kenya. The club referred to here is not your average nightclub but a country club with a golf course, swimming pool, clubhouse and guest lodges.
What are these people doing in the club you may ask?
In God we trust
A meeting has been called to initiate a community policing scheme. The upcoming elections and the security concerns which have arisen as a result of the violence in the previous elections has the community worried. People are apprehensive about what may happen if any disturbance takes place. The business community, representatives from the police and prominent townspeople are in attendance.
After waiting for an hour past the scheduled start, it is time for the meeting to commence. To my amazement, the chairman of the meeting (a Muslim) calls for the meeting to start with prayer and a Christian stands up and says a small prayer, asking for the meeting and all further actions to be blessed by God. All different faiths (the Christians, Hindus, Muslims and even one Sikh) stand in respect during the prayer.
To me, this is quite amazing since where I come from (Pakistan), different sects of the same faith do not pray together let alone interfaith prayer. This sort of harmony is a first for me and I am very impressed by how the different communities are living side by side in Kenya. Unfortunately, tribal and religious conflicts do arise in this East African country, leading to significant bloodshed, but that’s definitely not a factor in this town.
Community steps forward
As the meeting progresses, people step up and highlight the main issues with regards to the community policing scheme and what sort of problems they expect to encounter during the elections.
Some say more police patrols are required, some bring up the issue of disseminating real time updates while others talk about 24/7 monitoring. Regardless of the issues raised, the entire discussion takes place in a very civilized manner, everyone is given a chance to speak and the police also provides an update on their plan to provide security in the town.
Next comes the topic of resources. It is heartening to see people being generous and coming forward with pledges of cash to repair police vehicles, provide food to the police patrols and give their own vehicles (six cars are pledged in total and more were provided later on from those not in attendance).
As the meeting draws to a close, the chairman again asks someone to say a prayer. This time a Hindu steps up and asks for God to bless this meeting and to make this community policing scheme a success.
What starts in prayer, ends in prayer! I leave the meeting with a sense of optimism. What a small community can achieve in terms of interfaith harmony can serve as a lesson to the world at large.