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Kenya: Mosques and churches, bathed in yellow paint
Kenya: Mosques and churches, bathed in yellow paint

'Color in faith' project meant to build bridges between faiths, fighting animosity and prejudice

World Bulletin / News Desk

Kenya's churches, mosques, and temples are turning yellow.

As the sun sets in Kenya, reflecting its golden rays off thousands of rusty iron sheets in Nairobi's Kibera slum, a couple of buildings painted yellow stand out from the usual oranges and browns dominating the rusted iron sheets and mud houses.

One of the buildings is a mosque, while the rest are churches, all painted golden yellow.

Sheikh Yusuf Nasur Abuhamza who leads the Jeddah Mosque, told Anadolu Agency that the mosque was the first place of worship in Kenya to be painted yellow.

“I remember that day as if it was yesterday. Both Muslims and Christians came here to paint the mosque,” Nasur says, pointing to a section of the mosque’s walls.

“Everybody was happy, this is the significance of the color yellow. Christians, and Muslims have always lived as brothers and sisters, helping each other when in need. This is the message that we are sending, we want to promote peace, love, and unity among all religions,” he added.

The “color in faith” project to paint Kenyan houses of worship yellow started this August, although the actual painting took place just a month ago, according to project organizers.

Speaking to Kenya’s Nation television, Nabila Alibhai, who spearheaded the project, spoke about the significance of the use of yellow.

“Yellow is a color that is neutral, it is also the color of light, and light dispels darkness. When you look at paintings of divinity and of angels and of saints, they seem to be flanked with this aura of yellow.”

With the project’s co-founder, Colombian artist Yazmany Arboleda, Alibhai has also worked in Afghanistan and Kabul in similar projects to spread peace and unity among religions.

Abdi Fatah, one of the Muslim faithful who prays at Nairobi’s Jeddah Mosque, told Anadolu Agency that he longs for the day when Muslims will no longer be seen as terrorists due to the terrorist acts committed by the al-Shabaab militant group.

“Anyone wearing white clothes like I am is called a terrorist, any devout Muslim is called a terrorist, but this color” – he gestures to the yellow on the mosque – “means that you and I are one, we are a family. This color will unite Kenyans, and one day no person will be judged for their religion.”

Islam is Kenya’s second-most popular religion, with 4.3 million adherents making up 11 percent of the Kenyan population, while Christianity makes up 84 percent, as the most popular religion in the East African country.

In recent years Al-Shabaab militants have carried out a spate of attacks on Kenyan soil, including the most notorious, an April 2015 attack claiming the lives of more than 140 students at Garissa University.

The attacks have driven a wedge between Christians and Muslims, as the militants claim to be protecting Muslims who are oppressed and killed by Kenyan security forces.

But Nasur said, “We should not allow religion to divide us, mostly after being mixed with politics. A Christian should not fear a Muslim, and Muslims shouldn’t do the same. We need to help each other as humans.”

He added that as soon as they finished painting the mosque, they all marched down to the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) Holy Trinity parish, almost next door, to give that place of worship a fresh coat of paint.

“The church is just up that road 200 meters from here, you can’t miss it, it’s the one with the yellow roof,” he said, pointing to a roof in a distance.

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