Us­ing his own charm, charisma and quiet diplo­macy, prelate brought war­ring tribes to­gether, faced up to armed youths and gave shel­ter to the dis­placed

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - TRIBUTE TO KENYA’S HERO - BY WYCLIFF KIP­SANG wkip­sang@ke.na­tion­media.com AND BARN­ABAS BII bbii@ke.na­tion­media.com

“For the coura­geous peace mak­ers who risk scorn, fear and harm to build a bet­ter world.” Bishop Cor­nelius Korir may have penned these open­ing lines in his book: Amani Mashinani (Peace at the Grass­roots), as a ded­i­ca­tion to oth­ers, but, un­wit­tingly, he may have been de­scrib­ing him­self.

For Bishop Korir, the prelate of El­doret Dio­cese who died on Oc­to­ber 30, was per­haps the only clergyman in Kenya’s his­tory for whom peace could have been his mid­dle name.

While the Bomet-born bishop was cel­e­brated for ex­pand­ing the Catholic Church in the North Rift, what stands out in his 27 years of epis­co­pal min­istry is his role in build­ing bridges and seek­ing rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

He be­lieved that the best way to keep the peace in the north was to bring de­vel­op­ment to peo­ple.

“We dug two dams in East Pokot, and donors came in to utilise River Le­lan, which is shared by the two Pokots and Marak­wet,” he told Satur­day Na­tion in a past interview.

The devel­op­ments at Le­lan in West Pokot have since be­come the shin­ing torch in Bishop Korir’s peace-keep­ing min­istry.

“The foun­da­tion, run by the Amer­i­can bil­lion­aire and phi­lan­thropist Bill Gates, helped put up milk cool­ing plants, which made Pokots and Marak­wets con­cen­trate on milk pro­duc­tion,” said the Bishop.

His ef­forts saw the fight­ing stop with Le­lan be­com­ing a lead­ing pro­ducer of milk with an av­er­age of up to 20,000 litres daily.

But while bring­ing pros­per­ity to the Pokot and Marak­wet neigh­bours re­mains an en­dur­ing mile­stone in his life, Bishop Korir may have reached the pin­na­cle of his peace-mak­ing call when he came face to face with the post-elec­tion vi­o­lence of 2007-08.

At the height of the vi­o­lence which erupted af­ter the dis­puted elec­tion of 2007, Bishop Korir lit­er­ally blocked some armed youth who were bay­ing for the blood of women and chil­dren flee­ing the skir­mishes.

At one point the cathe­dral in El­doret, the head­quar­ters of the see and the seat of the bishop, hosted up to 10,000 In­ter­nally Dis­placed Peo­ple in the church com­pound.

“In 2008, I had to go from lo­ca­tion to lo­ca­tion bring­ing peo­ple to­gether and our ma­jor ral­ly­ing point was to call for a cease­fire that would al­low farm­ers to plant as it was the plant­ing sea­son. We were plant­ing and talk­ing,” he re­called.

The fourth born child of the late Athanas Arap Ta­ma­son and the late Blan­d­ina Chep­koech, Cor­nelius Korir was born on July 6 in 1950 at Segutiet Vil­lage of Bomet in Keri­cho Dio­cese.

Ini­tially, his par­ents re­sisted his de­ci­sion to join the church but he de­fied all odds and braved the 46 kilo­me­tre re­turn jour­ney to at­tend mass at the Mill Hill Mis­sion­ar­ies, Kap­long Mis­sion, at least once a month.

It is here that the young Korir met Fr Joseph Casser, a Mill Hill Mis­sion­ary, who en­cour­aged him to join the mi­nor sem­i­nary af­ter com­plet­ing his ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion.

He would later at­tend Mother of Apos­tles Mi­nor Sem­i­nary, El­doret, com­plet­ing his sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion in 1975 be­fore pro­ceed­ing to St Au­gus­tine Ma­jor Sem­i­nary in Bun­goma to pur­sue a Di­ploma in Phi­los­o­phy and Re­li­gious Stud­ies.

In 1982, Bishop Korir joined St Thomas Aquinas Ma­jor Sem­i­nary, Nairobi, for an­other Di­ploma in The­ol­ogy and in 1989 he at­tained a Mas­ters de­gree in Sa­cred The­ol­ogy from St Pa­trick Col­lege, Maynooth in Ire­land.

His Church work be­gan when he was or­dained a priest on Novem­ber 6, 1982 by Rt Rev Ndingi Mwana’a Nzeki and posted to Nakuru Dio­cese.

It is here that, he be­gan his peace mis­sion while serv­ing as a priest in Molo and Ki­turo parishes. He took over the dio­cese of El­doret from Bishop John Njenga when he was ap­pointed

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