The Shocking Names Kenyan Parents Give Their Children

Did you know that the Kenyan constitution gives every child the right to a name?

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credit: nationalgeographic.com

The Bill of Rights in the Kenyan Constitution (Article 53) clearly outlines the rights of children, including the right of every child to free and compulsory basic education, the right to basic nutrition, and the right to shelter and health care.

But the first item in the list of almost a dozen rights is an odd one — every Kenyan child has a right to a name. Why does the right to a name have to be included in the Constitution? Whoever heard of a child without a name?

The first fundamental right of every Kenyan under general “rights and freedoms” is the right to life, but when it comes to children’s section, their first right is their claim to a name. Which leads to a more important question, what names do Kenyan parents give their children? And what do these names say about those children?

I am not so much here concerned about all the Kenyan children named after Barack Obama or the Air Force One. I am not even talking about the newborn who was branded “Donald Trump Otieno” months before the new US president was elected, or the boy whose birth certificate has read “The Beast” since 2015. My concern is with an entirely different list of children’s names.

I am talking about the names parents give their children as they grow up, the names that will never feature in the children’s birth certificates or school IDs. Yet, these names become the lens through which children see themselves. I am talking about names like “Good for Nothing”, or “Disappointment” or “The Clumsy One”. These are very popular children’s names with many parents.

In fact, such names are more powerful because, unlike birth names, children grow up believing that they have earned these names. They think they deserve them. The truth is that, when parents give their children cheap, hurtful names, those children will grow up to live cheap, hurtful lives.

It doesn’t help that these names tend to be very memorable. The names, or labels, stick to children. They follow follow them around. They define them. They become who they are. They are like the jestful “Kick Me” sticker that naughty kids put on the backs of their peers in school, only more destructive.

A recent report by Childline Kenya revealed some shocking numbers in terms of reported incidents of child abuse in Kenya. Over the last 10 years, more than 33,900 reports of child abuse were made through the helpline. Of these, 13,878 were reports of child neglect and abandonment, 7,832 reports of sexual abuse were made, followed by 7,317 report of physical abuse. Only 1,025 reports of emotional abuse were made.

However, do not be deceived by the dismal number of reported incidents of emotional abuse. Sadly, many people do not think emotional abuse is worth reporting. An even larger number of Kenyans would not recognise emotional abuse if they saw it. The numbers above tell a shocking story, but they also tell an incomplete story.

The numbers tell us nothing about all the destructive names that parents give their children and burden their lives with. The numbers don’t tell us how children tend to internalise the labels that parents and even peers project onto them. The numbers don’t reveal how children begin to become the label and make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Names have a deep and lasting impact on how children feel about themselves. Names are the first labels for what children believe about themselves and the images they carry of themselves. The names we give our children become their ‘brand.’

The Constitution has given every Kenyan child the right to a name. However, it would appear that some children are better off without a name than with the names their parents burden them with.
In the unfortunate event you witness a child being abused, call the helpline 116 or WhatsApp Childline Kenya on +254799873107. You can also email 116@childlinekenya.co.ke (Twitter: @childlinekenya)

A Letter to Kenyan Pastors

What will you do when the politicians come knocking this Sunday?

Dear Pastor,

He will be visiting your church this Sunday, but he won’t be a stranger. You have seen him on television and read about him in the newspaper countless times. You have never met him, but you probably know him better than some of your congregation. He is your local political leader.

Perhaps he is the area member of parliament. Or maybe you are lucky enough to get a visit from the area senator or governor. The President? Whoever he is, Sunday service will be different today. Attendance will be in record numbers and your parking lot will host some of the most expensive vehicles to ever tread on that gravel.

There is going to be great pressure to modify your order of Sunday service because this politician is around. Perhaps the singing will be shorter, the sermon will be hurried. In the heat of the moment, it will make sense to include a slot in the service for the politician to greet and address the congregants.

It seems harmless enough. It is perfectly understandable to make an exception. Special circumstances sometimes call for special actions. But dear pastor, could I urge and remind you not to forget what the Bible says about some of those moments? The following considerations may help guide you.

1. Watch where the politicians sits

The Bible, that book that defines who you are and why your church exists in the first place, says something about where the rich and the influential members of society choose to sit in the congregation. I hope you will not forget to take the words of Jesus to Pharisees into account when that politician visits:

“Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”
LUKE 11:43‭-‬44 ESV

As far as Israel was concerned, the Pharisees were like a rough combination of the legislature and judiciary today. They are the ones who were supposed to understand, interpret and implement the laws set out by God. They even enacted some of the ways the laws of God applied to specific situations. Jesus noticed how self-important they were; how they carried themselves in the marketplace and the places of worship.

How will the politician visiting your church behave? Will they seat in the best seats? Are you, in fact, the one arranging for this? Why are you doing something that the Jesus you claim to be the Bride of clearly frowns upon? Or is it actually not about Jesus?

2. Watch how the politician will give

I am sure the highlight of Sunday service will most likely be the offering. Come on, with such record attendance, and with people overflowing that some are even standing outside the building just to catch a glimpse of their leader, the offering baskets will be bulging today. It is inevitable.

Buy I am not concerned about that. My concern is something else Jesus said about the same Pharisees that are the parallel to today’s politicians:

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
MATTHEW 6:2‭-‬4 ESV

Is this what the politicians visiting your church will do when it is time to give? Or maybe I am being too critical. The truth is these politicians are human, like you and I. They are also sinners. It would be unfair of me to expect them to stick to a higher biblical standard than other people. What if they want to announce their giving to your church? Who am I to judge?

But my concern is with you, dear pastor. You know better. Will you give these politicians a platform to do what Jesus clearly frowns upon? Will you change up your service to allow the politicians announce his donation for your upcoming church project? Will you give your your pulpit for the man or woman to say a word about what he has done for the community? Would you rather please man than God?

3. The sheep are watching the shepherd

In the end, this is more than just a matter of personal preference and opinion, dear pastor. You have a responsibility towards us, your sheep. And you will one day have to give an answer to God. As the Bible clearly puts it:

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
HEBREWS 13:17 ESV

Clearly, God wants us, the sheep, to obey you and submit to you. When you allow God’s word to be disregarded and God’s name to be blasphemed by endorsing some of these actions in the church, we find it difficult to obey God. It is hard for the sheep to take their creator seriously when the shepherd doesn’t seem to be doing it.

Dear pastor, please consider God this Sunday and the coming Sundays as you navigate the rising political temperatures in the country. The pressure to fear man rather than God will be high. Your reputation before the world will be at stake. Would you rather please men than God? I hope you will do the latter.

If you care about us, the followers of the Jesus you preach, you would consider these things. It will be difficult. Money is powerful, and the love of it can be tragic. You cannot resist public opinion on your own. I understand that, and for this reason, I will be praying for you.

I hope you do the right thing. I hope you will fear God enough to keep His commandments.

Kenya’s 2013 Post Election Violence

[Written on March 15, 2013]

3427415-computer-monitor-and-hand-with-gun-isolated-on-white-backgroundThere’s a celebratory mood in Kenya. Other than those celebrating the wins of their preferred candidates in various electoral positions, there’s another, more subtle celebration. Despite many fears of a recurrence of the 2007/08 post-election violence, the 2013 elections were predominantly peaceful. The few incidences prior to the elections, were, if I may call them such, “pre-election” violence. No matter the efforts by international media to zoom in on them, they didn’t count.

We were determined to see our prayers answered.

There would be  no post-election violence this year.

AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

There is therefore a general attitude of gratitude in the hearts of many Kenyans. We are grateful that no people were chased and displaced from their homes this time around. We are grateful that no life was lost out of grievances from the election results. We are grateful that God heard and affirmatively answered our prayers. There are no new IDPs.

One thing still worries me though. The fact that God answered our prayers. The fact that we got exactly what we asked for, and nothing more. This worries me. Continue reading

Okay Kenyans, You Can Stop Praying Now

imagesIt is a small room. There’s probably about 30 to 40 people inside. All the people in the room are praying. Fervently. Faithfully. Resolutely. Unceasingly. You see, one of their own has been thrown into prison. And they are praying for, if not his release, at least his well being. That he won’t be killed like James, the brother of John. The Christians in Mary’s house are praying for Peter, who had been thrown into prison by Herod. Their prayers are so loud and passionate that they can barely hear the knocks at the gate to the house.

But Rhoda, a servant who was probably standing near the door, hears the knocks and rushes out, towards the gate. When she recognizes Peter’s voice, she is so overjoyed that she forgets to open the gate and rushes back into the house. She announces that Peter is at the door. Everyone thinks she’s crazy. Continue reading

Blog Break (25 Feb 13)

Three reads to enrich your week. The first one is lengthy but timely. The second is brief and to the point. And the third one is, well, just read and find out:

  1. THE IDOL OF ‘OPEN’ OPTIONS: “We worship the god of open options. And he is killing us. He kills our relationships, because he tells us it’s better not to become too involved. He kills our service to others because he tells us it might be better to keep our weekends to ourselves. He kills our giving because he tells us these are uncertain financial times and you never know when you might need that money.”
  2. In I CHOOSE PEACE, Serah Njambi reminds Kenyans (with the General Elections a week away) that peace is not just a prayer that we make or a dream that we have, it is also a practical choice that we make. “We are a generation that knows our country’s history just as well as we are aware of the LadyBird Series fairy-tales. We often forget the price that was paid for liberty and so we trash it at any opportunity without thinking of the implications.”
  3. Finally, in LEAVING (CHRIST)IANITY, Michael Patton takes us through the stages that many people go through on their way to apostasy, losing their faith or simply leaving Christianity. “Ignorance. Pity. Shame. These are all word descriptions she associated with Christianity. However, through these superficial word descriptions, it was evident that the best root word to describe her feelings was “betrayal”.  She had been betrayed by the Church, because they duped her into a belief not unlike that of the tooth fairy or Santa Claus.”

Overall, may God inspire, comfort and admonish you through the reading of HIS WORD this week, friends.

The Violence of Peace

When we look at other African countries plagued by wars similar to those in Kenya (such as tribal conflicts), those who have attained peace (albeit an imperfect peace) had to pay a great price for that peace. Come to think of it, the fight for peace is really a fight for freedom, and it is only when freedom is attained that peace is consequently realized. All men desire peace, but very few of us ever bother to think about the cost of peace. The price that Kenyans had to pay for freedom is that same price that we have to pay for peace today. Peace walks, placards, graffiti, concerts and conferences are all welcome approaches, but they are often insufficient. In the world we are living in, the reality and effects of sin cannot be denied.

PEACE ISN’T FAIR

No raila No peaceThe human heart is bent on chaos, and all the places that claim any semblance of peace, only claim so because violence is suppressed, not because people have willingly conceded to be peaceful. We may currently admire Rwanda for its peaceful streets, but we cannot ignore the heightened security, and the high number of security officers at every street corner in the country.

In this world, as long as sin remains, the most effective solution to the peace problem is not dialogue, but the law. Of course, peace that is attained through suppression of violence is not true peace. But it is a visible, external peace, a preliminary peace if you like. Peace does not mean that people have nothing to fight about, peace means that people choose (or are made) not to fight. Peace, like forgiveness, means giving up the right to hurt others for hurting you. It means not repaying evil for evil. It means withholding justice. Yes, peace on this fallen earth isn’t fair. Continue reading

The Truth About Peace in Kenya

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” [Matthew 10:34-36]

PeaceIt is exactly 2 weeks to the Kenyan General Elections. Next month, Kenyans will March 4th to a new government and leaders. One of the greatest immediate fears, as the day approaches, is whether the elections (the post-election days) will be peaceful or not. The memory of 2007/08 post-election violence is still fresh on our minds. For many, these memories are only disturbing news items that they witnessed on television from the safety of their peaceful neighborhoods. For some of us, the memories are much more real. Personally, I can no longer call Eldoret home, even though that is where I was raised and schooled. But for all Kenyans, the sincere plea on our lips is a plea for peace. We may be divided on who we want to be the next president, but we are united in echoing this prayer from our National Anthem:

“May we dwell in Unity, Peace and Liberty”

Continue reading