Susanna Kokkonen
Speaker on Jewish-Christian relations; anti-Semitism; the Holocaust and persecution

With Love from Kenya

Over the years I have come to know and respect many African pastors and leaders whose love for Israel is unmistakable and who -in the midst of varied circumstances- choose to support Israel. One of the vehicles for this support is the Africa-Israel Initiative – initially from the heart of Pastor Erik from Norway. The idea is that African Christian leaders, often with important political connections, can influence their nations’ policies with regard to Israel. All over Africa Christian leaders belonging to the Initiative form an active network and frequently come together to learn and teach. Just now, I was privileged to spend time in Kenya participating and teaching at their Nairobi-Jerusalem Conference.

It is remarkable that Abraham’s blessing (the blessing and curse in Genesis 12) is recognized not just as a Biblical word but as reality in this event. Our host Bishop Mulinge openly talks about the amazing and very practical things that happened to him and his community once he started sending financial support to Israel. The idea is that even a small blessing extended to Israel transforms in G-d’s hands into a bigger blessing. If the Bible is true, and its promises can be trusted, then it contains our instructions. So why am I surprised? It is just, well, amazing to witness this being put into practise in Africa. After all, I am a European.  Europeans have always been thought that Africa needs us. In this Nairobi-Jerusalem Conference we learn that Africa and Israel need each other. And to clarify: whilst blessings by the Almighty can be material, they can also be much more than that. The leaders understand political needs and they want to influence their nations.

After the conference, I have a chance to visit a poorer area. It is certainly not the poorest in Nairobi but I have never been anywhere like this before. We enter a hall for a worship service. Singing goes on for many hours and no one is tired. Contrary to what would so often happen in other parts of the world, here people are not worshipping because of so many material blessings they have seen. They are worshipping because G-d is G-d. It leaves me deeply moved. Towards the end of the service, I am invited to introduce myself. When I say that I flew in from Jerusalem, people start spontaneuously cheering and clapping their hands. The pastor is visibly moved and confesses that it is his dream to see Jerusalem. “We love Israel”, he says. Yes. They do. They are believers and they know that this is G-d’s land. But this too is an amazing experience – we are in a very poor area and this is unexpected.

Leaving Kenya, I am overwhelmed. I wish that people in Israel would see and experience these things. It is amazing to be in the midst of such love.

My prayer is, and I wait for the day, when this Christian support and love becomes a voting pattern. That would be the realization of Africa and Israel together.

 

 

 

About the Author
Dr. Susanna Kokkonen, originally from Finland, has lived in Israel for the past twenty years. She has a doctorate in Holocaust Studies and has pioneered Jewish-Christian relations including at Yad Vashem, as the Director of the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem. She travels around the world speaking about Israel; the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and current issues.
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