Kenyan priest addresses parliamentary group

l-r MP John Battle, Fr Steven, Canon Pat Browne, Lord Alton

l-r MP John Battle, Fr Steven, Canon Pat Browne, Lord Alton

Fr Steven Ochieng, a parish priest working in Turkana, northern Kenya, on the remote desert borders between Sudan and Ethiopia, has been visiting parishes around the UK for the last two weeks. Fr Steven's parish of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Todonyang is twinned with Holy Apostles in Pimlico, central London. During his stay, Fr Steven told parishioners about his work. Under the auspices of the All Party Parliamentary Kenya Group he also gave an address to parliamentarians and others on 1 March.

Fr Steven is a member of the St Paul's Missionary Community, who work on health, education, farming, fishing and irrigation projects with the nomadic tribes in the region.

"As a parish priest, besides celebrating Mass, administering the Sacraments, and so forth, in one day my job can involve buying cement, fixing a water pump or administering medication," he said.

The last year has been a turbulent one in Turkana. As well as coping with the effects of a severe drought, which has killed much of the livestock, leaving many hungry, an armed dispute has broken out between the Turkana and the Dassananch tribes - both of which are parishioners. More than 60 people have been killed; many have had their fishing nets stolen; and around 1000 people, mostly women and children, have crowded into the missionary compound because of fear of attack from the Dassanach.

The church is a 'safe haven' for the people because of the existing protective fence around the compound, Fr Steven said. But this overcrowding with little sanitation and hygiene is proving to be a serious health hazard. There are only two latrines and the living conditions are very poor. The Community has been treating many cases of malaria, respiratory infections, diarrhoea, skin infections, worms and eye infections. The people use the lake water which has high concentration of sodium potassium, bicarbonates and fluorides. Fr Steven said there have been several cases of cholera.

Fr Steven said he hoped the Kenyan government will intervene to bring about law and order and stop the supply of guns in the area. He appealed for readers to support the work of the St Paul's Missionary Community through donations and prayers. To make a donation on-line see:

Cheques can be posted to: New Ways, Holy Apostles, 47, Cumberland Street, London SW1V 4LY. Charity No 1035688.

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