The Words of the Moffitt Family
You can bet the ranch that people on a plane flight to East Africa are thinking about the lions and zebras of the Serengeti and the idealized "circle of life." Mt. Kilimanjaro appears in each imagined scene in the mind of the first-time visitor, the way movies set in Paris always have to have a view of the Eiffel Tower out the window.
People's thinking about Africa tends to not be very nuanced, the whole varied continent painted in broad strokes, as one big village amid jungles and drums and rivers full of hippos. In the mid-eighties, I visited most of the countries in the southern half of the continent and was continually impressed by the diversity of the cultures and terrain. Africa has a thousand faces and moods.
And now I was visiting Kenya for the Global Peace Festival; it was my first time.
What you get when you step off the plane in Nairobi is a very big dose of urban intensity. There are ten times more cars and trucks than there are pot-holed roads to drive on. During the rush hour it can take two hours to move a couple of miles. Cars run out of gas and are hand-pushed over to the shoulder by people from other cars.
It might seem simplistic to say that the genuine warmth and sincere hospitality of the people makes up for the inconvenience of the crumbling infrastructure, but it really sort of does. Things we take for granted in the U.S. happen a bit slower here. Like getting things repaired and buying food. On the other hand, people tend to talk out their differences in person rather than fire off a blistering e-mail or call their lawyer. I sat next to a graduating law student at a luncheon who told me there are only a few attorneys in the country who do litigation. "The rest of us," she said, "get jobs filing legal papers for corporations."
I saw the family spirit in action at Hoon Dok Hae each morning at our hotel, located about twenty miles from the center of the city. We were told about a hundred and fifty members would be able to make the trip that early. We set up two hundred and fifty chairs just to be safe. It wasn't nearly enough. People packed themselves in along the back walls and dozens stood outside looking in through the windows, stooped over with small children dozing on their backs. Every couple brought their children to hear Hyun-jin nim.
Very few of the members have cars, which meant that in order for people to be at Hoon Dok Hae, they had to get the children up at 2 or 3 AM and travel long distances in a series of buses. That by itself is eloquent testimony to the depth of the Kenyan heart.
That's also why, considering the task, it was relatively easy to get people to volunteer to come out to clean up a stretch of the Nairobi River. The river is unbelievably foul, a driveway-wide open sewer wandering through the city. The thought of wading into raw sewage and an eye-watering stench to pick up sodden garbage and put it into bags, is beyond repulsive. Every atom of your being says "no!" Some of the volunteer clean-up crews encountered the bodies of infant children, put into the river by people in the slums who have no means to afford proper burial.
And yet with all that, at least ten thousand volunteers showed up on the morning of August 29 to join in cleaning the river. They came from every tribe because the river flows through every life. Tribe and nation are also family, only larger. Everyone understands that.
During the cleaning, volunteers would sometimes look up to see the discouraging spectacle of a dump truck pouring garbage directly into the river just two blocks ahead of them.
One of the volunteers was David Anderson, a British member of parliament, who was attending our conference. True to Labor Party values, he even brought his own boots and gloves from Britain to join in public service to the former Crown colony.
Kenyans have a natural respect for God and most are Christian and evangelical. But the religious terrain is by no means a monochrome landscape. Kenya has been an oasis of freedom and a magnet for refugees from regional conflict in eastern Africa. As a result they have grown to accommodate a rainbow of cultures and faiths. Pentecostals, Hindus, Muslims, Jews and indigenous beliefs interact peacefully. You want to start a conversation about the place of God in national affairs? Or the precise focus of God's providence? You'll get plenty of takers. The culture is deeply spiritual and intuitive; family comes before everything and God is purposefully invited into public life.
This was demonstrated when two of the Global Peace Festival organizers went to the studios of Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), the government-run television station, to be interviewed on the popular news and talk show, Good Morning Kenya. At the start, as soon as the camera went live and they were on the air, the host opened the show with a prayer.
This happens every morning. Guests waiting to be interviewed pray along with her or sit in respectful silence.
In such an atmosphere, the content of the International Leadership Conference (ILC), which is the distilled essence of Divine Principle, was well received. Participants came on time (even early!) to the presentations. They listened with interest and asked sincere questions. The conferees had a strong desire to know more about God.
The Global Peace Festival has a good reputation in Africa, and other countries have stated their desire to have the festival come to their country. Pursuant to this, Kenya's immediate neighboring countries sent cabinet level representation to the festival's ILC.
Earlier this year Kenya experienced violence in the streets following elections. Thousands died and the fighting ended only when the opposing candidates agreed that Mwai Kibaki would remain president and head of state, and Raila Odinga would be the prime minister and head of government business.
It's an uneasy truce and the degree to which nerves are still raw was underscored when the prime minister and his wife visited Hyun-jin nim at our conference. During their meeting, someone set off a string of firecrackers in the street outside.
A Kenyan member working on the conference staff dived under a table, and we heard the crash of broken glass outside as waiters dropped their trays onto the flagstones. The prime minister's security people reflexively jumped into defensive stances. The firecrackers brought all conversation abruptly to a halt for a few seconds. Then the prime minister smiled and said, "Oh, it's only firecrackers," and everyone relaxed.
The main event of the Global Peace Festival was held in the large grassy plaza at the Kenyatta International Conference Center. Thousands of people packed into the area shoulder to shoulder, everyone standing. The advertising campaign had been limited due to costs, but word of mouth had been good, and the crowds began to arrive several hours before the event. The air crackled with energy when the prime minister and Hyun-jin nim entered the plaza side by side and went to the special seating area.
Prime Minister Odinga and Mrs. Ida Odinga took the stage as a couple, clearly enjoying a favorable reception from the crowd. They didn't walk to the end of the runway, they danced out to the end. Both addressed the crowd in Swahili, saying how honored they were that this great festival of peace had come to Kenya.
"Dr. Moon is a friend; he is a true friend of Kenya," said the prime minister. He introduced him warmly and thoroughly to the gathering, leaving no doubt that this man should be welcomed by the people of Kenya. He concluded his tribute by calling Hyun-jin nim to the stage. When he came out, the music and the drums started up again. Hyun-jin nim took Prime Minister Odinga and his wife by the hands and three of them boogied out along the walkway. The crowd went crazy.
I thought two things: (1) you couldn't ask for a better John the Baptist figure in a country than the prime minister, and (2) being able to dance should be a requirement for public office anywhere.
Then another thought occurred, a profound one this time. We would have to check the archives, but it may be that Prime Minister Odinga became the first sitting head of government in history to formally present a member of the True Family to their sovereign nation.
Hyun-jin nim read from a prepared text, as he did for the Global Peace Festival in Washington, DC. He was pleasantly surprised it how closely people paid attention to his speech. In particular, people applauded when he testified about father's life course and said, his name, "The Reverend Dr. Sun Myung Moon." He was continually interrupted by applause.
This being outdoors where weather is always a factor, there was a feeling that God was participating. As the program began, a strong breeze was blowing rain clouds toward the stage. They looked pregnant with rain, a darkening sky moving toward us. I saw the stage manager point to them and say something in Swahili to his assistant.
Sometime while Hyun-jin nim was being introduced, the breeze stopped and the flags on the poles lining the plaza went slack. A few moments later the wind picked up again, but this time it blew from behind us, moving the rain clouds away from the festival.