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When we need it most, Church is absent, silent, deeply soiled

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People are
always in constant struggle for emancipation and self-actualisation.

In this process,
they rely on organised social formations for mobilisation and leadership. More
often than not political organisations led by the parties have come in handy to
support the activities of interest aggregation and articulation. Others have
been civil society organisations that are generally not state actors but
provide crucial support in engaging the government and other state agencies.
These social formations are also nursaries for nurturing leadership talents and
skills.

Leaders emerge
from these organisations and spring to national and local political positions
of influence. The Church has been an integral part of this mix and has played
key roles in shaping public opinion regarding governance. In Kenya and Africa
in general, the Church has made enormous contributions in development. Not only
have they provided opportunity for leadership development, but also made
massive investments in education, health and mass communication. The Church has
also been the moral compass of society and acted as the conscience of the
people. It always stood up to government and bad leadership and was the voice
of the citizens in light of oppression and sometimes persecution. The civil
society and political parties regularly see the Church as a crucial partner.

In the absence
of credible alternative political voices to the ruling elite, the Church has
always filled this void. It will be recalled that during the single party
regime in Kenya, the Church became the refuge of the oppressed. The clergy used
the pulpit and drew from their moral authority to reprimand the government
whenever the flock was threatened. They stood up to dictatorial tendencies of the
authoritarian regime and prevailed. Multiparty democracy was restored and
constitutionalised. They worked well and closely with the nascent opposition
leaders to push for the redrafting of the constitution. The Church in Kenya
played a key role in routing out of Kanu at the turn of the 21st Century
through Narc.

The Narc government
was able to turn back the clock of economic meltdown and usher in an era of
unprecedented growth and development milestones. The country initiated and mega
infrastructural projects and implemented novel social programmes. During that
period, Kenyans were ranked as one of the most optimistic and happy people. As
oversight institutions picked up their roles with gusto, the Church continued
to work closely with them in the interest of their flock. However, as the
country approached the [Mwai] Kibaki succession, the Church succumbed to the
temptations of tribal jingoism and the leadership displayed open disunity. The
clergy quarreled in public and pursued partisan interests at the expense of the
church followers. The church leadership got so deeply immersed in parochial
agenda that what began as cracks soon became huge gullies. Other vices found
easy access into the church and fertile ground to flourish.

The Catholic and
Anglican churches have played a more visible leadership role. The flock has
always relied upon the leadership of both these churches for guidance in times
of crisis. Such times include the earlier stalemate on the taxation law. But it
appears to have gotten deeply embedded in the political infrastructure. It is
also suffering from many self-inflicted sins. The disintegration of the social
human fabric has not helped matters either. 

The 21st
Century has presented the Church with innumerable challenges. Since the death
of Pope John Paul II in 2005, the leadership of the Catholic Church has had to
contend with crisis upon crisis. Other than corruption at the Secretariat,
cases of child molestation have been exposed almost across the leadership
spectrum. It is the intensity of these challenges that has brought tension
within the ranks of the Vatican. So much so that it is alleged that Pope
Benedict IV had to resign and give way for Pope Francis. The Anglican Church
has had to contend with incessant leadership wrangles within its ranks. The
challenge of solemnising same sex unions has pushed the Church almost to a
cliff.

This has been
compounded by the demand and subsequent acceptance of gay people into the hierarchy
and top ranks and of leadership. The split occasioned by these disagreements
has assumed a regional if not racial dimensions and dichotomy. The
congregations from the Third World have vowed not to participate in the general
assemblies of the church unless these grave matters are fully addressed and reversed.

It is thus in
this context of internal weaknesses and external threats that the Church finds
itself staring at the challenge of providing alternative leadership to
political parties and civil society organisations. It appears the Church danced
itself lame at the close of the 20th Century when the main dance was
coming with the collapse of the Cold War. The vagaries of atrocities attributed
to the cardinal sins committed by Church leaders have become cancerous. Like
termites, they are eating the temple of God from within its core structures.

The moral
decadence has robed it of external defenses and it is now weak and vulnerable
to social decay. Funds from graft and underworld businesses are regularly
received at the pulpit with glee. The respective presiding ministers together
with the congregation always offer prayers of blessings for such questionable
donations. Members engage in vicious and violent fights over property and sadaka , while the leadership are
recruited into political and government service for a fee. County governments
that are known more for corruption and ineptitude have in their ranks church
leaders as chaplains.

Kenyans and to a
large extent Africa, find itself between the anvil and the hammer. The government
leadership is reducing the space for political participation. At the same time
of muzzling freedom of expression, it is curving out pounds upon pounds of
flesh from citizens through heavy taxation.

The pain of
being an ordinary citizen is so excruciating that one would wish to sprawl at
the foot of the cross in supplication. Yet the earthly guardians of the cross,
have themselves soiled hands so much that they themselves need atonement for
their sins more than the flock. It is doubtful whether the Church will recover
and find its footing in time to save the flock. The citizens are clearly on
their own and should thus engage in deeper soul searching to reach their inner
strength. The political leadership is struggling with the Building Bridges
Initiative.

At the same time
a section of the citizenry is pushing for a referendum to address certain
weaknesses of the Constitution. In these weighty social matters, the church is
conspicuously absent and loudly silent. The power of the soul would be more
appropriate now than the energy of the flesh. Everyone need to engage in
genuine prayers to their respective higher beings so as to redeem the church
and make the government leadership people-sensitive.

As the saying
goes, “All of us, everyone to himself and God for us all”.

 

Kanyadudi is a Political and Public Policy Analyst



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