Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Simeo Ondeto: The Champion of Human Freedom and Dignity

During his earthly life, Simeo Ondeto was an unyielding champion of human freedom and dignity. Simeo could take any risks, face any hardships, and endure any affliction in order to ensure that humanity was never at peril. His resolve to deal with the problems of human freedom and dignity was always evident in his actions and words. 
When he preached, he encouraged spiritual freedom. His miracles were always about giving hope to the suffering, empowering the weak and the emotionally insecure and making life livable. He neither performed miracles to demonstrate his power nor performed miracles to boost the numbers of his followers. But everywhere he went, he performed miracles only when necessary for freeing a suffering soul and for strengthening the hopeless.

Homes for Orphans, Widows and the Needy

During his lifetime, Baba Simeo ensured that Legio Maria churches were the safe havens for orphans widows and the needy. After he was forced to desert his Hill of Calvary (Got Okwon’g) through police raids and eventual burning, Simeo Ondeto decided to settle in St. Mary Church Jerusalem Amoyo from 1966-1991. And he turned Jerusalem into the home of thousands of Orphans and hundreds of widows. Any widow could just walk in, find a place to build a house in the church’s compound and live there with her family. Simeo would then provide food to all the orphans and widows from the regular gifts he received from church members and from people who visited him. In fact, Simeo never kept any gifts or moneys. As soon as he was given a gift, a widow or orphan was there to pick it. And he would give out the gifts without looking at his side.

The widows and orphans programs were not only running at St. Mary Jerusalem. Baba Simeo also ensured that all Legion Maria churches had allocated small sections of their land to the widows’ programs. In his decrees, he also ordered that widows be welcomed in Legio Maria churches and shown where to build their houses in the churches without being asked to pay for it. In return, he expected the widows to be committed to the service of God while they lived in the church compounds. Indeed, the widows and orphans programs allowed many single families to settle in Manyatta church, Efeso Nzoia church, Kodero church and Nyapiedho church, among other churches.

Involvement in Political Freedom

While Baba Simeo did not engage directly in political affairs, he advised politicians whenever necessary. According to Susana Ouma, his foremost maidservant, Baba Simeo was involved in the fight against colonialism in Kenya. Susana recounts how she met with Baba Simeo while she was boarding a bus in Nairobi. She said: 

“On that day, I went to town to buy a few things for my aunt whom I worked for as a baby nurse. While inside the bus, this man (Simeo Ondeto) entered the bus and sat next to me. I did not yet know that he was one of the freedom fighters. But the people in the bus said it loudly that this man was one of the Mau Mau fighters who was fleeing from the police…..We talked all the way until he alighted.”

Well, it is not just Susana Ouma who reported the involvement of Simeo in the freedom fight. Even Simeo himself recounted several times how he worked closely with African and Kenyan freedom fighters to liberate Africans from the colonial yoke. Indeed, it is because of these narratives that Legio Maria calls him Dedan Kimathi, which is a symbolic name for Simeo’s liking for liberation and freedom.

Moreover, Simeo Ondeto worked with Jaramogi Oginga Odinga during the struggle for Multi-Party Democracy in Kenya. Often, Jaramogi Oginga visited Simeo for discussions on freedom in Kenya and how to achieve it. In fact, even when Oginga was despairing, Simeo encouraged him. And in 1989, Simeo gave Oginga Odinga a two-branched image to symbolize the imminent victory in the struggle for pluralism in Kenya. Furthermore, in his sermons, Baba Simeo frequently instilled hope in his listeners, telling them that “however bad things may seem, human freedom and dignity would always prevail.”