By George Biruri
Some sections of the Church in Kenya, especially the evangelicals and Pentecostals have over the last ten years, but mostly over the last five years taken a publicly partisan position in Kenyan political framework. This is a major shift from the Divine mandate of saving all souls.
The Church in Kenya has since the advent of the missionaries grown to be a formidable institution. The Church has greatly provided services in sectors such as education, health, livelihood, and economy.
Over time, the Church has done its prophetic role and taken a stand on issues to the chagrin and discomfort of some people.
During the struggle for independence, the Church opposed use of violence and some cultural traditions like female circumcision. Most of the Africans were not happy. The MAUMAU coined the phrase ” gutiri muthungu na mubia” meaning there is not difference between the European colonialists and the priests. The protesting Africans even founded their own independent Churches.
During the Jomo Kenyatta regime, the Church opposed the illegal political oathing that was taking place then in Mt Kenya region. The oathing had been imposed on the region by elements within the state that feared political competition from Jaramogi and his group. The negative echoes of the illegal oathing is still being felt today. It becomes more evident during the elections.
During the Moi regime, the Church continued in her prophetic duty to raise her voice on several matters. The Church opposed the que-voting electoral system, the one party dictatorship, the retrogressive “old” constitution and the politically instigated tribal clashes in the Rift Valley.
The Church did not only talk but also took practical steps to advocate for pertinent issues. When Moi singlehandedly appointed commissioners to undertake the review of the Constitution process, the Church alternatively formed the People’s Commission of Kenya. Later, Moi was forced to merge the two. The Church also formed the Ufungamano Initiative which brought together most of the religious leaders and institutions, to lobby for governance issues. Religious leaders such as Archbishop Ndingi Mwana ‘a Nzeki, Archbishop Henry Okullu, Archbishop David Gitari, Bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge, Fr. Ndikaru wa Teresiah, Fr. Dominic Wamugunda, Rev Timothy Murere Njoya among others played a key role. Some of their published books include: A Voice Unstilled by Ndingi; Church and Politics by Okullu; Troubled but Not destroyed by Gitari, Beyond the Silence by Muge; Out of Silence and We, the People by Njoya among others.
Over the last five years, some Church pulpits have been turned over to politicians to play divisive politics. In return, such Churches have benefitted from the huge donations made publicly by such leaders. The aim of the politicians is actually to acquire political support. However, some of the Churches have allowed politicians to misuse the Church spaces.
It reached a stage where candidates were being profiled on the basis of religiosity, the number of time they attended churches and the amount of donations they gave. Some, without any adduced evidence, were dismissed as ” waganga”.
At one time, some Church leaders in Kirinyaga issued a presser taking a political stand on who they supported for the Presidency. That for the Church, that is supposed to serve all, was an unusual step.
The drafters of the Constitution had a good idea when they inserted Article 8 which provides that : ” There shall be no state religion!” In the recent past, We have seen the continued breach of the separation of Church and State. The Church risks losing her legitimacy if she gets compromised by the State. The Church will lose her moral ground in playing her prophetic duty because she will have been compromised in the operations of state. If it continues we run the risk of religious and interdenominational conflicts.
The Church should take cue from Jesus Christ and focus on the spiritual and the prophetic duties. The Church should revert to the true spiritual course. The Church leaders should revert to their spiritual calling! Otherwise, the millstone will be place around their necks and the gates of hell will be wide open for them!
The author is an enthusiastic political analyst in Kenya and contributes his articles to The Diaspora Times