Kenya’s Door to Heaven

Christ the Redeemer Sculpture in Lodwar

 

Known for its desolate images of hunger, poverty, marginalisation and everything else that depicts the shortcomings of Kenya, Turkana is the most unlikely of locations for one of the country’s most iconic but little known religious monuments.

Towering conspicuously on top of one of the many hills that overlook Lodwar town, the political seat of Turkana County, is a grey gigantic statue of Jesus Christ with hands spread apart.

It is a mirror image of the iconic Christ The Redeemer sculpture that defines Rio de Jenairo – Brazil’s capital city which played host to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

But unlike its Brazilian look alike constructed in 1922 to celebrate Brazil’s 100 years of independence from Portugal, Lodwar’s statue is a story of Christianity.

 

Permanent reminder

 

It is a permanent reminder of how the Vatican, the headquarters of the Catholic Church, afraid of the spread of Islam from Sudan in the North, created Kenya’s second largest diocese.

And for a long time before the advent of devolution, the missionaries provided nearly all social services in a region marginalised by successive governments.

“Remember the other side of Sudan was Islam. The reason Vatican created this diocese was to prevent the spread of Islam.

So, in 1968 the St Patrick Society from Ireland sent some people to work as missionaries here,” explains Fr Concorde Akimana, a Rwandese priest who has worked in Turkana since 2012.

“The first bishop who came here was John Mahon. He found this place completely primitive and started a primary school where he was the only teacher.

The school is today known as Lodwar High.”

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