A Statement from African Leadership President John Walter 9-22-2013

In his statement today, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said, "Let us continue to wage a moral war even as our troops continue the physical battle."

He was, of course, speaking to a nation shocked by al-Shabaab's brazen and violent attack on the Westgate Mall and the ongoing hostage stand-off that continues into today (Sunday). The "moral war" results - all too often in a fallen world - in physical battles. In this case, it is Kenya's armed forces standing with the government of Somalia, its neighbor to the east, against an al-Qaeda linked militia.

This "moral war" (to use President Kenyatta's phrase) is not new; it is ancient. It has taken different forms over the long train of history. In the present time it seems to be between those who pray and work for a heaven best described by the prophet Isaiah, and those for whom such a picture is anathema. "They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain..." (Isaiah 11:9a ESV, emphasis added). Former enemies, the wolf and the lamb, live together in peace. Contrast that image with the carnage from the Westgate Mall to see a perfect juxtaposition of worldview between those who work for peace and justice, and an extreme few with warped visions of power and hegemony.

This battle will not be won by bullets or drones; it will be won by God's people exhibiting his boundless love and mercy. It is a war of ideas and of loving labor that stems from this radical belief: that the universe's Master loves all his creation and creatures and wants them to experience reconciliation with him and with each other.

Yesterday, that battle found its way to the Westgate Mall: nearly 60 dead, hostages still being held as I write this, a familiar oasis turned tempting target, a place known to anyone who has spent time in Nairobi.

The attack on Westgate reminds us all of the importance of pastors who find themselves on the front lines of this moral war. The more they can be equipped to explore, explain, and expose the depths of God's grace and mercy, the more the radical ideas of the Bible can soften and replace the physical war.

Most foreign policy thinkers today believe that the Cold War was won not by military might, but by ideas. My wife and I lived and volunteered in Poland in the early 1990s, taking part in the great cleanup after the collapse of the Soviet bloc. I joined African Leadership because the battle of ideas has shifted to Africa, and I am called to it. Our work isn't just about training pastors to give better sermons; our work is equipping pastors for the front lines of this moral war, this clash of visions of heaven that sadly is worked out over the lives of too many innocents.

Let us pray for the safe release of the hostages and for those families grieving today and in the days to come after the news cycles move on.