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On 28th January 2012 the Oscar winning film ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was shown by Grace Park at Westwood Church, Coventry.
The film somewhat echoes the injustice encountered in the prisons in Kenya in the sense that the main character, Tom Robinson, is falsely accused and treated disrespectfully by the mainly white southern American community. The difference is though, the injustice is racially motivated. What is particularly profound about the film is the overall message that we should go against the prevailing culture and treat those on the fringes of society as equals, after all they are only ‘a harmless mockingbird.’ One of the fascinating things about the film is it parallels many things that happened in the author’s own lifetime. For example Harper Lee’s own father was an attorney who defended two black men who were convicted of murder.
Prior to the film, Grace Park gave a short talk and people watched a short film by Dominic Hatje about the work of Kelvin Mwikya and the Philemon Foundation. People were supportive in making the event possible such as providing edibles and overall there was a really positive response to the film. Although only several people came, a total of £40 was raised. It was also significant in making people aware of Philemon ministries for the first time including those who didn’t come via facebook, with the hope that they will continue to and encourage others to support the Ministry.
Philemon in the Press
Report by Ben Nyamburi, Field Administrator, 20th December 2011
As many prepare to celebrate Christmas in different ways, we at Philemon Kenya also have been preparing to share it with prisoners as a way of demonstrating the love that God showed us through giving us His son Jesus.
On 10th December, the team from Philemon took their Christmas gifts to Kitui Prison, in South-Eastern Kenya.
There are 500 prisoners at Kitui Prison, including 30 women and 9 children with their mothers.
We had a good fellowship with the prisoners, whereby Pastor Makau, our volunteer partner, shared the word of God. The gifts that were given to prisoners included bread, milk, sweets, pads for women, Vaseline and soft drinks for children.
Even the officers each received bread and milk. Kitui is one of the more welcoming prisons we work in. The team from Philemon were Ben and Antony.
Langata Women's Prison
On 16th December, we visited condemned in-mates at Langata Women's Prison. We had good fellowship and interaction with the prisoners. Sheena shared the word of God and conducted holy communion, which a number of the inmates received.
The condemned section has 40 women, and two children, both of whom are boys.
In the ceremony, we prepared chapattis, beef stew, sodas and fruit. Gifts included soaps, tissue paper, vaseline, women's pads, and sweets. A lot was shared with these women. The officers too were very friendly, and some of them were the ones who prepared the meals for the inmates. The officer-in-charge was not there, but we were received by her deputy. The team from Philemon consisted of Sheena, Ben, and three former women ex-prisoners who are members of the Nairobi support group.
Finally, our Christmas celebrations in prisons took us to Athi-River Prison, which is in the Rift Valley (but administratively in Nairobi). We visited on the 17th December. This prison has 536 inmates. It is a male prison, and we were received by the deputy officer-in-charge, on behalf of the officer-in-charge who was not there.
We enjoyed the live praise and worship by the prisoners' praise team before Sheena shared the word of God. We then distributed the Christmas gifts. Each prisoner feasted on bread and milk, and the officers too received a loaf of bread. The team from Philemon were Sheena, Ben, Kyalo, Stella, Jane and Karitu.
May I take this opportunity to thank all who made these activities possible. To our UK board we salute for the kind donation towards this. This is just the first of many, and so we call for unity and warm partnership in all areas of this ministry.
Sheena Orr: Why Prison Ministry? Why Overseas?
My compassion has always been with people on the edge of society – the marginalised, the poor, the voiceless, the vulnerable. Indeed, from the outset my call to ministry has been to those on the edge – be it of the church or of society. All my working life has been focused on working either with organisations involved in social and economic justice or directly with the communities themselves. This has included 6 years working for ‘Koinonia’, the social development wing of the evangelical churches in Bangladesh and 8 years in Malawi working with a wide range of churches and development organisations as a consultant, researcher and facilitator.
On my return to Scotland in 2001, before being called to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament, I became involved in Priorities Area work and did the research and design of what has now become the Transformation Team, part of Faith in Community Scotland. Then in 2006 I was asked to do the research for a Throughcare project for the 80% of prisoners released into 8 postcodes in Glasgow. This is now an established project called Faith in Throughcare. It was my involvement with this last piece of work which ignited a passion for those affected by the criminal justice system and which led to my requesting a full-time Prison Chaplaincy placement during my training for ministry. This had never been done before but the request was supported and I spent a very rewarding summer in Chaplaincy at Polmont YOI along visits to Perth and Edinburgh prisons.
Through Prison Chaplaincy I became involved in the Joint Faiths Throughcare Group (JFTG) which meets at national level. And while studying for my BD I used my final year dissertation to offer to do research into Community Justice Chaplaincy. I am now part of the JFTG sub-group charged with developing a strategy for Community Justice Chaplaincy in Scotland. This includes looking at the role churches play before, during and after a person has contact with the criminal justice system. It recognises the role that the family and community can play in reducing reoffending and restoring lives.
Meanwhile, at local level I joined the Stirling Interfaith Community Justice Group which is currently developing plans for a visitor centre at Cornton Vale women’s prison. The group has also arranged to provide toys for the visitor and family centre and leaver packs for those walking out of the prison gates with nothing but a plastic bag and a few belongings.
During Prisoner Week 2010 (More than a Number) I was involved in services in Falkirk and Stirling Presbytery and at Christmas took a group of young people up to Polmont YOI to take part in a service which I led.
While exploring all this I began to wonder what the prison situation was like in developing countries where I had spent most of my working life. This led to contact with various organisations working with prisoners and ex-offenders in Kenya. As I researched more I realised that a ministry with prisoners/ex-offenders and churches was being laid on my heart. How this is to be worked out in practice is what I am currently exploring. All the contacts I have made so far have been very positive and supportive of the idea. It is as if all is falling into place for such a time as this!