Seventeen people from across The United Church of Canada participated in the Mission & Service Global Pilgrimage to Kenya, from March 25 to April 4, 2017. The pilgrimage visited Mission & Service partners throughout the region. This series of blog posts shares the story of their journey. 

At the opening of the Desmond Tutu Conference Centre in Nairobi, a few years ago, Archbishop Tutu challenged fellow church leaders to recognize their role in the discrimination, even rejection of people living on the margins of society. His message: all people are equal before God. How would they respond?

Tutu’s message struck a chord with Solomon Gichira as he contemplated how the LGBTQ+ community has been rejected in Kenya and other African countries.

At our orientation day with our Mission & Service global partners in Kenya on March 27, Solomon related the stages of questioning, prayer, soul searching, and consultation that led to the creation of the Pembizo Christian Council. With the moving words he described the life of rejection experienced by LGBTQ+ people and his conviction that the church in Kenya can and should take up Tutu’s challenge and realize their role of promoting human dignity for all.

But Pembizo does not conscript, coerce, or guilt churches. They express their interest and with Pembizo’s guidance, discussion and consultation each seeks to find their place as an agent that removes the barriers for LGBTQ+ people here and welcome them into the fold.

I was struck by the clear vision of a society that values its diversity that Solomon described. The importance of the church in the life of Kenyans and the call to live out the gospel message making the church important agents of change. Pembizo is there to help them find their way while also providing immediate and practical help such as safe houses, counselling, and a welcoming faith community for LGBTQ+ people.

Solomon is so convinced that by living out the gospel message, the churches in Kenya are the true agents for defeating discrimination. He calls himself the “acting director,” because he envisions the day when the discrimination has ended and there will no longer be a need for Pembizo.

—Carole Bennett, Toronto Conference