Students, lecturers, university staff, and World Council of Churches (WCC) staff from the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy office in Nairobi were on hand to offer reflections and support students.
Prof. Esther Mombo, senior lecturer at the university, led her colleagues in reflections on sexual and gender-based violence, and the role of the Thursdays in Black campaign in addressing sexual and gender-based violence within and outside theological institutions and faith communities.
Students recited poems and presented skits demonstrating the various forms of sexual and gender-based violence, their causes, and their effects. Participants also joined in prayers of lament, led by university chaplain Rev. Samuel Githinji, over the realities of sexual and gender-based violence today.
In her remarks, Rev. Dr Pauline Njiru, Eastern Africa regional coordinator for WCC Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy, praised the students for making it clear to the world that they want a world free from rape and violence, and that they have made a choice to be game changers working for a different reality. “Sexual and gender-based violence is among the major barriers to the elimination of HIV and AIDS and we need to intensify our efforts towards its elimination,” she emphasized.
“Today, our desire to build the Africa we want—the Africa without violence—inspires us to officially launch the Thursdays in Black advocacy campaign in our university, and by doing so, we join fellow Christians, who with the World Council of Churches, are sojourning together on a pilgrimage of justice, peace, and reconciliation which began with the recently held WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany,” said Kevin Maina, acting students’ chairperson for the school of theology.
Dr Julius Kithinji, dean of theology, reported that the top university leadership was in full support of the campaign and revealed his wish to see all members of the university dressed in black every Thursday as an expression of their commitment to eradicate all forms of sexual and gender-based violence in every part of the world.
After all participants had received Thursdays in Black T-shirts and buttons, Rev. Dr John Michael Kiboi, head of the department of Biblical Studies and Philosophy, officially launched the campaign within the university. In his remarks, Kiboi inspired the students to exercise their agency in ways that create safe spaces for not only themselves but everyone with whom they relate. In the name of the triune God, he commissioned the participants to be ambassadors of justice and peace committed to the campaign at all times.
“The launch was organized by students under the leadership of a committee comprised of seven students, six of whom are studying theology,” revealed Brian Muyunga, a youth member of the WCC executive committee studying at the university.