Religion and politics are bed fellows

May 29, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 29 – The relationship between the clergy and politicians has been that of love and hate. On one hand it is a symbiotic one of give and take while on the other the two wont see eye to eye and often end up accusing each other of failing in their specific mandates. 

Every other weekend politicians are in churches helping to raise funds for various projects. Considering the amounts of money they help raise, their impact in the development of the church cannot be underestimated. In fact it is through the contributions of politicians and businessmen that magnificent churches have been built.

However, the two sides have also prospered in sideshows, often telling off each other. While the clergy will point fingers at the failures of the executive, politicians have shoved the criticisms, directing the clergy to remain at the pulpit and accused them of divisive politics.

“Owing to the history of an imperial Presidency Kenya evolved to the point where the political class is not accountable to anyone. And when the church has spoken out and laid demands on the government, the leaders have taken offence,” National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) Secretary General Canon Peter Karanja opines.

“What they say when they accuse us of overstepping our mandate is, stop to hold us accountable. This is foolish!”

The NCCK has remained a vocal group that has maintained pressure on the executive despite the opposition. Canon Karanja says if the clergy yielded to the pressure and went to bed with politicians it would be suicidal.

Canon Karanja says the two institutions are inseparable. He explains that politics is the total well being of the individual, including religion. He adds that religion deals with lives which inevitably include the social and political aspects.

“Fundamentally the two institutions are complementary. They are part of the whole, the individual the person is, and you look for harmony and synergy rather than differences,” he elucidates.

In a national prayer meeting earlier religions leaders pulled a fast one on politicians accusing them of being insensitive to the needs of Kenyans. Shortly after, NCCK called for snap elections to replace the current crop of leaders, a view Canon Karanja still holds.

Even as politicians shrug off religious leaders when they are called to account, the same will run back to the church for support on their ascension attempts in politics. During the constitution referendum, the Orange camp got massive support from the Christians who were at that time against the inclusion of Kadhi’s court into the constitution.

Canon Karanja meanwhile welcomes the entry of Christians into the murky waters of politics saying that this could help inject values into the country’s leadership.

“A religious leader who wishes to run for political seat should resign from the pulpit the way civil servants resign their jobs to run for electoral seats so that they don’t confuse their faithfuls,” he reiterates.

A number of legislators today are former men of the pulpit. Starehe MP Margaret Wanjiru rode on the Orange wave and her church following to launch her ambition to politics.

“You would expect that they have strong religious convictions and that they would fundamentally be good people living above board in lives of integrity and dignity. In there they should endeavour to make their contribution to the national political process,” he says.

The relationship between religion and governance does not end with public accusations and counter accusations. It goes beyond here. Churches have sponsored schools and health facilities acting as stewards. The Ministry of Education appoints the clergy into school boards appreciating the role they play in ensuring proper running of the institutions.

The Secretary General adds that religious leaders have the role of carrying out civic education to educate the masses on leadership values. This he said would consequently result in the emergence of a new crop of responsible leaders.


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