Henry Makori: It cannot be business as usual

THERE’S NO DOUBT KENYA IS healing. Slowly, we are emerging from the darkest period of our independent history. Everyone is talking peace – even notoriously hawkish politicians now strive to sound nice.

There are great expectations of the new grand coalition government, a general feeling that the post-election carnage should become truly a turning point in our national life.

For Christians, the nation’s majority, this is also a most appropriate time for soul-searching. Politicians have rethought their agendas and methods and, for the sake of the nation, made compromises unimaginable a few months ago.

One of the happiest outcomes of the negotiations is dismantling of the ‘‘imperial presidency’’, condemned for years by advocates of democratic reform, including the Church, as the foundation of dictatorship and corruption.

It is no longer business as usual in the political arena. What about the Church? Are not changes needed there too?

As professed followers of the Prince of Peace whose law is love, Christians turned on their neighbours with demonic barbarity. They killed, maimed, looted, raped, torched and evicted. They fuelled hate through telephone and email messages, and laughed at their ethnicity. They became agents of evil.

What can possibly explain this blatant hypocrisy? Poor Church leadership? Already, Protestant and evangelical pastors publicly admitted that their voice was “swallowed up by the cacophony of those of other vested interests.” They urged “Church leaders to recapture their strategic position as the moral authority of the nation.”

Bishop Peter Kairo, expressed similar sentiments at Easter. “I accept that we have come from trying moments where at times it was hard to keep to our Christian values. But I urge you to come back to Christ and beg for forgiveness.”

But the problem appears to be deep-rooted, not merely a lapse of judgment on the part of the clergy and the faithful in the heat of political passions.

DESPITE THE HUGE CHRISTIAN numbers, people’s daily lives generally do not seem to be sufficiently influenced by the faith. Some theologians have concluded that it is because African converts to Christianity never received a positively transformative evangelisation. They were taught only to “pray and obey.”

The evangelisation also destroyed African cultural identity and disempowered the people by disconnecting the Gospel from the deep human desire for holistic development.

Believers were not taught that salvation also meant liberation from every form of oppression; that authentic Christian living included not only going to church, but also demanding it for everyone from the holders of authority.

It is apparent that consciences still remain largely untouched by the social justice dimension of the faith. On their part, Christian political rulers in Africa took advantage of infused obeisance and went on to become dictators who drove their people to great misery.

Though the Church has played a role in the advancement of good governance in Africa, that role has mostly been limited to outspokenness of the clergy, and not “conscientising and mobilising the masses into political activism in the mould of the biblical prophets,” as Father Iheanyi Enwerem says in an article in the current issue of the Catholic journal, African Ecclesial Review.

In mostly Christian Kenya, for instance, the Church’s involvement in civic education has not boosted public awareness of governance issues.

Ugandan theologian, Fr Dr Deusdedit Nkurunziza, also writing in the African Ecclesial Review, calls for a paradigm shift, “not just to prolong and repeat day after day, year after year, the evangelisation inherited from European missionaries,” but to restore the identity and dignity of Africans, “with emphasis on the right to development.”

To that end, Fr Nkurunzuza proposes inclusion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter for Human and People’s Rights in African catechisms.

Mr Makori is CISA Editor.

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