Several mosques and churches across Kenya are getting a fresh coat of paint as part of an interfaith initiative to sow peace in the region.
The “Colour in Faith” initiative, spearheaded by artist Yazmany Arboleda, is helping Muslim and Christian congregations paint their houses of worship yellow. It’s a simple act they hope will send a profound message of love and cooperation.
“One of the premises of our art is that by working together ― putting a paintbrush to a wall ― with people who believe differently than one does, one builds bridges of understanding,” Arboleda told The Huffington Post.
Kenya has experienced years of religious tension between its majority Christian and minority Muslim populations. This tension has become increasingly violent due to the rise of Islamic militant group al-Shabab.
The country’s population is roughly 83 percent Christian and 11 percent Muslim, according to the CIA World Factbook.
So far, two churches and one mosque have joined in on the “The Colour in Faith” project, with three other houses of worship in the works.
“Often times, people have walked away from our workshops and painting sessions with dismantled preconceptions and a new awareness of how and why other communities outside of their own believe in what they do,” Arboleda said in an email to HuffPost.
The artist and his team have named their color of choice “optimistic yellow” to represent “joy, happiness, intellect, and energy,” he said. “Yellow produces a warming effect, arouses cheerfulness, and stimulates mental activity.”
“Colour in Faith” is part of an ongoing collaboration between Arboleda and civic engagement expert Nabila Alibhai. Their work together began in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2013 where they worked with local artists and activists to give pink balloons to 10,000 people in the city. The project drew the wrath of the Taliban, who called it a “war on our religious values.”
Arboleda and Alibhai went on to set up a community arts and civic engagement organization called inCommons, under which the “Colour in Faith” project is now being sponsored.
“The acts of terror the country has experienced, the increasing threat from radicalization, and manipulation of religion for political gains could as we approach the presidential elections in 2017, tip the country into a level of instability that it has not experienced so far,” Alibhai, who is from Kenya and lives there now, told HuffPost.
“Colour in Faith provides regular citizens who have faith in commonality and believe in love to counteract terror perpetrated in their name,” she said.
Arboleda stressed that the project can be replicated anywhere in the world, particularly where people are longing to celebrate diversity and religious difference in a visible way.
“If there are communities interested in painting their house of worship yellow in the name of love,” Arboleda said, “we are happy to support their process!”
Scroll down to see photos of the “Colour in Faith” project: