Kenyan bags first Humanity Award...My prayer as i read laudatio for Humanity Award Winner, Njeri Kabeberi at Frankfurt am Main

Philo Ikonya
Posted November 2, 2009 from Kenya

One night during Kenya's post poll violence in 2007, I wrote a letter to a distressed sister. It was published in Women International Perspectives (WIP). This is the reason why I got a ticket to go to the ceremony in which people of different faiths discussed justice and the struggle. My speech was titled *Vigilant and paying the price". It was long, so here is a bit.. about it..

My role at this big ceremony at Paulskirche was to read the laudatio which I wrote and which detailed how I knew Njeri Kabeberi to be a deserving winner- Njeri wept. In her acceptance speech, she was very clear that this was an award that recognised her as a symbol of many who suffer in Kenya as they struggle to uphold justice for all. Njeri eloquently proclaimed that she was “lucky because I am just one of the many who deserve this award…. This is why I shall take this opportunity to declare that the award ward is not mine alone…” The award was for Kenya’s undeterred focus in individuals on the prize of freedom. In the laudatio, I prayed for every Kenyan heart, I beseeched that this moment of Kenya’s pride, “be a defining moment for my beloved Kenya.” In my heart and soul, I hoped against hope that this would be a “moment of humble rebirth for you and our country… And to you dear Kenyan, I so wish to write a short letter burning with love, to your own heart because I love, hope and believe in you. “May it be the moment when we get the light to love and understand ourselves as humanity and less as this or that ethnic group without fear be here. I pray in tears that the candle Njeri lights will burn to dispel hatred of all types: whether based on colour of skin, language and the injustice of greed. I write a letter to your mind that Kenya’s new constitution will help us reorganise the nation’s resources starting with land, so that historical injustices may be blown away leaving room for us to fight against so many other injustices and pains, room for education and health for all, room for courage. I pray that you read beyond tribe in this award and reward yourself with a rebirth for ultimately you will have to do this yourself, not the constitution, not the politicians but you standing alone in the strength of whatever faith you may confess, be it traditional or modern. I pray. In Kenya, we have all the means that we need to bind us into one wonderful nation; a place where we can grow whilst treasuring and reaping a harvest we share from our diversity. Why do we go wrong? I would that those in power would hear our constant plea, if not from our simple lips and pens at least as inspiration the dew from the heavens and act; but they are impervious and so, I say to the simple who own the power and the prayer to take the lead set our people free in a change that respects freedom and democracy! The Chamber of Lawyers in Frankfurt am Main is studying the influence of world religions on law and seeking a path in the tolerance and sharing of all light in faiths in our increasingly multicultural world. As the President of the Chamber Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. Lutz Simon said in the awarding ceremony, “We trust that by honouring the symbol of humanity we will be able to demonstrate how important courage is in our times. So important is the defence of ethnic values that it calls not only for the well worded speeches of politicians, statesmen or business leaders but also of the sincere, well intentioned and courageous deed of individuals in everyday life. We are not awarding globally known benefactors – whose work we do greatly value- but want to honour those people who are largely unknown internationally and to encourage them to persevere on their chosen path. Today we honour Njeri Kabeberi!” Another indefatigable woman from Kenya, Njeri in her own style has blazed a new trail. Let then all of us receive a new light in our hearts as an award we give each other. Later, beyond the award night, I heard the sound of Miriam Makeba singing pata pata and she drew us off our seats like magic, we were on the floor of an Irish Pub dancing for joy as others in this culture prepared to dress up as witches and ghosts on Halloween. The pub was already spun by spider web matting and we shared so much joy and laughter. And again, I heard in Makeba’s energy the message that Africa must set the pace for the world’s liberation also from the material prisons we have built- come join the song of freedom! Njeri, Carsten and the Chamber of lawyers dream of a free Africa. I quote Shila Keetharuth from the Gambia in her tribute to Njeri- a bon entendeur, salut! “may those who have heard and understood pay heed!”

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  • Corine Milano
    Nov 02, 2009
    Nov 02, 2009

    Thank you, Philo, for sharing your speech with us and for introducing us to Njeri. You've written a powerful testament, and what a wonderful opportunity you had to attend the ceremony!

  • Jade Frank
    Nov 03, 2009
    Nov 03, 2009

    Hi Philo,

    I couldn't help but smile ear to ear when I saw your face and read your words again here on PulseWire. Your writing always leaves me with a sense of urgency, but also a sense of peace. Your vision for Kenya is one that honors every human who inhabits the land and a vision that puts human needs foremost and far removed from the greed of its powerful who lead the country astray. I can feel your deep passion and bold vision in every sentence.

    This is a beautiful tribute to Njeri. Thank you for sharing both the celebration of her life work and journey, as well as your words that honor her spirit and determination.

    Philo, I would also like to invite you to participate in a new writing opportunity to be published in World Pulse Magazine. We are asking women around the world to tell us what Land means to them. And knowing you, I sense that you have a powerful story to tell.

    Check it out!

    I hope that all is well with you dear Philo!

    Warmth, Jade