I will be honest and admit that the election period in this country is not anywhere close to being a favorite of mine. The political temperatures rise so fast, the tribal divisions come to the fore, and in as much as people speak of unity, one cannot fail to see that the majority are split right down the middle along tribal lines. Not only that, there seems to be a lack of objectivity in all matters politics – everyone is pointing fingers at their opponents, and there are more than occasional insults thrown here and there. We all know it, there is no need to pretend that our nation and its leaders are angels.
We all have a part to play, we are not just mere pawns shuffled on the playing board. I play my part by encouraging and sharing messages of peace.
That said, as someone who read and made a book presentation on Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza, I know full well that there’s a thin line between political rivalry and the onset of violence. What I want, as do most of other hard working Kenyans, is to have credible and peaceful elections. With recent happenings, however, one cannot help but be worried, and anxious, and if you are a bundle of nerves like me, distressed. The election week and its uncertainties loom over my head like a dark cloud. At times like this, only conversing with my mother and prayer seem to calm me down.
I have found myself replaying Amazing Grace over and over. I love this song so much – it speaks directly to my heart. When I listen to it, my soul rests, and the hope that goodness will win over humanity is restored verse after verse.
I was in Taveta this past weekend, and during the Sunday Mass, the priest spoke about the song during the Homily. So when I came back to Nairobi, I researched a little on the origins of the song, to build onto the story that he had given during the Homily, and here is a synthesis of what I have gathered so far.
Amazing Grace was written by John Newton, an Anglican clergyman and English poet (1725-1807). Before his conversion, he was involved in the slave trade and was at some point, captain of a slave ship. Involved in a violent sea storm near the shores of Ireland in 1748, he called out to God for His mercy. Contrary to stories that you may have heard, he did not immediately pen down the song once the storm quelled, though that cry during the storm marked the beginning of his conversion, but later, much later, when he had converted fully and was preaching after he was ordained in the Church of England, did he and his fellow preacher, poet and convert William Cowper begin to write songs for their congregations. It was during this period, sometime in 1773, that John Newton wrote the poem Amazing Grace. The tune was not his, and the origin of the tune we all know is not well known. There are claims that the tune was borrowed from West African songs. Others claim that it was borrowed from an English tune known as New Britain. Nevertheless, the words of the poem and the tune merged beautifully, and with us, we have this song that is as solid as a rock in times of distress as it is gentle on our souls.
Amazing Grace indeed. Should I fail to sing it because it was written by an Englishman who sold my fellow Africans in the slave trade? No. I sing it because at its root is the message that Christianity is built on: that while we were yet sinners, Christ died to redeem us. (Romans 5: 8 But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ) So all of us, in spite of our humanity, this Grace is for us.
There are many versions of the song on youtube, however, the one that grips my heart in a solid embrace is this one by Libera. Libera is an all-boy English vocal group directed by Robert Prizeman that regularly performs concerts in many countries, including the UK, USA, and the Far East, and regularly makes recordings for their own album releases and other projects.
How are you facing your anxieties during this election period? And remember, we are not just mere pawns, we all have a part to play, minute as it may seem. No matter what, preach peace, be peaceful, and let us have a credible election.