'Father John Kaiser was a national hero in the fight for social justice'

(There is a glitch in the ICN archives which gives an incorrect date on the headline page of  some older stories. This one was published in 2007)

The American missionary Fr John Kaiser whose violent death in Kenya seven years ago still remains unresolved, is a great inspiration for the Catholic Church and civil society in the quest for social justice, CISA writes.

Last year, the Mill Hill missionary was posthumously honoured with the highest national human rights award, the Milele (Lifetime) Achievement Award, by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights "for dedicating his life to the pursuit of human rights and justice for the Kenyan people. He shared the accolade with Kenya's most celebrated woman, environmentalist Prof Wangari Maathai, the 2005 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

A previous recipient of the Milele Award was the Kenya's Independence hero, Dedan Kimathi. Every year since Fr Kaiser's death the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission and an array of civil society groups have organized commemorative activities to keep alive the spirit of the missionary, invariably described as a courageous and generous defender of the poor.

This year's memorial activities will conclude with a national Mass at St Joseph Pro-Cathedral, Ngo'ng, on Saturday August 25, under the theme: 'Let's stop violence; respect life'.

The 67-year-old missionary had worked in Kenya for 36 years, mostly in Ngo'ng Diocese. His body was found on the roadside near Naivasha town, northwest of Nairobi, with a bullet to the head on August 24, 2000.

The previous year, the government of President Daniel Moi, apparently stung by his criticism, had nearly expelled Fr Kaiser after he candidly told a public commission of inquiry that senior ruling party politicians whom he named planned the inter-ethnic violence that engulfed parts of the country in the early 1990s. He had sheltered people displaced by the clashes and wanted the United Nations to indict Moi and his government for crimes against humanity.

At the same time, Fr Kaiser was seeking justice for two teenage girls from Ngong, Diocese allegedly raped by then powerful minister for internal security, Julius Sunkuli. The priest had received anonymous death threats.

After his mysterious death, the church, Fr Kaiser,s family and human rights activists vehemently rejected the conclusion of the Kenya Police and the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) that he had committed suicide.

In his memoirs published posthumously, Fr Kaiser had written: "I want all to know that if I disappear from the scene, because the bush is vast and hyenas many, that I am not planning any accident, nor, God forbid, any self-destruction. Instead, I trust in a good guardian angel and in the action of grace."

Source: CISA

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