Τρίτη 13 Ιανουαρίου 2015


African Orthodox Church of Kenya


Your Excellency, the President of the Republic of Kenya
Your Eminencies, Your Excellencies the Diplomatic Fraternity, All Clergy and Laity, Brothers and sisters in Christ,
Today we are all gathered here, to bid our farewell to our beloved Makarios Fidel Castro Odinga. I would therefore first of all wish to convey my deepest, most sincere condolences to the family of the Right Hon. Raila Odinga & Mrs Idda Odinga , who indeed bear the greatest loss of a beloved son. To Mrs. Lwam Odinga, who today mourns the unimaginable loss of a life partner, accept deep condolences from the entire Orthodox fraternity. Take heart in the message of Christ from the Gospel according to St. John that He is “The Resurrection and the life”.
Today, brothers and sisters in Christ, we look back at life of Makarios Fidel Odinga, and listen to what he is telling us from beyond this life. As a spiritual son to me, he was a beloved friend. When he came to me requesting to be baptised, I gave him the name Makarios, not because I myself bear that name, but because of the historic importance of that name both to his family and to our Nation at large.
I would therefore like to take you back in time, to a time long before Fidel was born. To the year 1957, When the Late Archbishop Makarios III of Cyprus was released from exile in the Seychelles’. When he traveled through our beautiful Nation, then under British colonial rule, he got to meet the Orthodox Christians and distinguished freedom fighters within Nairobi and Central Kenya for one week. He even had meetings with different national leaders heading the liberation movement in Kenya. In one such meeting, the Archbishop met, among others, some of the eight newly elected Legislative Council (Legco) members, including the late Tom Mboya (Nairobi), Jaramogi Oginga Odinga (Nyanza North), and Lawrence Ogunda (Nyanza South), who had come to see him because they knew of his feelings about the colonial rule, not only in his own country, Cyprus, but also beyond, and even more so in Kenya.
All these Kenyan leaders were meeting for the first time a foreign Orthodox ecclesiastical personality who was a prelate, a freedom fighter, a great activist on the rights of his people and an ethnarch (a Nation’s leader). Admiring the prophetic role the Church, the Kenyan leaders confessed that, “If the Christian Church in Kenya practiced what it preached about the respect and dignity of man,” then it would help “eliminate or minimize the problems” facing Kenya.
The best description of this meeting is given as a testimonial to us by someone who was then a boy of ten, the present political luminary Raila Amolo Odinga, who was listening to his father narrate enthusiastically his meeting with Archbishop Makarios, that same evening after his father returned home. All eyewitnesses or their relatives mention that the spirit and determination of H.B. Archbishop Makarios in fighting the colonial government and winning against them, deeply guided the freedom fighters and leaders of Kenya, having them intensify their struggle against the British rule. Archbishop Makarios later on met and forged a lasting bond of friendship with our Nation’s founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. This bond unites out two nations and their diplomatic ties to this very day.
Therefore, the name Makarios not only reminds us of the spirit of brotherhood forged long before Fidel was born, but also calls our attention to the encouraging message from an Archbishop and Ethnarch; a message which forms a part of history written and sealed in unforgettable golden words.
Some say leaders are made, while others say leaders are born. When I chose Makarios as a Christian name during his baptism, I was envisioning a born leader. I prayed and trusted that he would live up to the leadership virtues and example of his father, and indeed his late grand-father. I was envisioning the spirit of leadership of Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus, being ignited in the young man Fidel. Yet, who can understand the ways of the Lord. No words can express the wonders and the workings of the Lord. The Almighty envisioned a better role for him amongst his departed.
So much has been said about his life and the way he lived it. Much more will be said. Many hearts are sunken by the loss of a life so young. A flower plucked at its prime. A candle snuffed out too soon. These and many more are the sentiments of multitudes, as a nation mourns a potential leader. However, as a river flows and as time flies, so are the days of our lives. We pass this way once. The life we live and our actions remain as living testimonies of who we were. Fidel was a hardworking young man. He was an example of an entrepreneurial youth both here in Nairobi and at his village home. His generosity and kind heart will be missed by many. I can attest to how focused he was in life since after his baptism, he later brought a beautiful young lady and requested that I conduct their ecclesiastical matrimony. He desired to be a serious family man and he did. Today we thank God because we can see the fruit of their blessed union; their baby boy. Even though the boy will miss his father’s touch as he grows, we know that he carries his father’s genes, virtues and character.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Paul reminds us in his Epistle to the Thessalonians, about hope of the life to come. He asks us not ‘to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope’ (1Thess 4:13). As Christ died and rose, so will God ‘bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him’ (v.14). Death, for us as Orthodox Christians, is not the end of life. So for Fidel Makarios Odinga, life does not end here. The grave is only a resting place. He awaits the Resurrection and the life to come. When Jesus died on the cross and rose again on the third day, he shattered the tyranny of death. He conquered death by his own death. He gave us the assurance of life after death. By His promise, death became a form of rest rather than a finality of life’s end.
As peaceful as the young Fidel was, let us learn from his example. His demise has touched the entire Nation. God has a purpose for that effect, to remind us of the vision of peace, love and co-existence fought for by our fore-fathers, among whom was Fidel’s grandfather. They fought for freedom, peace and good-will among all citizens of this great Nation. As leaders and citizens of Kenya, we need to take a moment and take stock of our past and present. We need to envision what we can achieve together in peace rather than in division. We need to work collectively rather than individually. Only in unity can we achieve the vision and mission set forth by our freedom fighters. I first landed in Kenya in 1977, Kenya became my home. My only prayer is for a peaceful Kenya.
Remember, beloved brethren, leaders and citizens, There is no way to peace; Peace is the only way. Therefore, today as we lay to rest this peaceful young man Fidel, I urge all of us to live true to the words of our National Anthem; words of Justice, Peace and Unity. With these, plenty will always be found within our borders.
May our gracious Lord rest our Beloved brother Makarios in His everlasting peace, where there is no tears or mourning. In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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