They Were Tortured and Responded with Love
Christopher Wemp '12, M.A. '15
This past July in Kenya, I was challenged to reframe my outlook on the world by seeking more opportunities to share joy and levity with the surrounding community. Beyond these happy realizations, however, I was also troubled. What about the suffering I encountered? Where was God in all of this, and what could I do in response? Here is one story about two brothers through whom I encountered the Crucified Christ, the Resurrected Lord, and a deep urging to social action.
Faraji and Kiano
Faraji and Kiano are two brothers in their 20s who live in Our Lady of Nyamagwa Parish, Kenya. When I met Faraji, he was very shy. Kiano offered a limp hand for a handshake and hardly spoke. I found that both of them took a liking to me, eager to show me the parish farm or help me with chores. When Fr. Chris, the parish pastor, shared the boys’ story with me, I found myself coming face to face with the Crucified Christ in a particularly horrible way.
The brothers’ mother passed away 10 years ago, and the father was intimidated by raising children. He decided that the best way to “keep them controlled” was to tie them up in the family house and leave them there to eat, sleep, and even relieve themselves. He bound their hands and feet and left them alone in a single room for four years. When Fr. Chris happened to find them after visiting their town to conduct a funeral, Faraji and Kiano were so depressed that they couldn’t even speak. The ropes cut into their flesh and were hardened with dried blood. “When I saw them like that, tied up like animals,” Fr. Chris told me, “I knew I couldn’t leave them.” He took them to the hospital to work with a psychiatrist and housed them in the parish. Faraji recovered more quickly and was able to reenter high school. Kiano continues to live at the parish. Fr. Chris called for the arrest of the father and each community member who participated in the children’s imprisonment or knew about it and told no one. Nothing happened to any of them.
Amidst this sadness, where was the hope of God’s love? As I departed down the dark road to my house on a Sunday night, Kiano followed me outside, put my hand in his limp hand, and clutched it as much as he could, slowly walking me all the way back to my house. He muttered indiscernible Swahili phrases to me as we walked—I have no idea what he said, but I do know that he refused to let go until he saw I was safely back. I was speechless. “Thank you, Kiano,” I mustered. “Have a wonderful sleep.”
I have written music that calls for justice and liberation of the oppressed, such as “On This Day of the New Creation” and “My Hand Is Yours to Hold.” Faraji and Kiano pushed me to concretely respond to this call more seriously through service and by sharing their story. Indeed, I saw the Crucified Christ in these two brothers; through their offering of love, I saw the Resurrected Lord. How could I not be awash in the mystery, forever moved by their selflessness and urged to follow their example? Who are the people in your life that have moved you and revealed God’s presence—how will you respond?