, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 11 – The top leadership of pentecostal and evangelical churches in Kenya on Monday gathered in Nairobi vowing to fight regulations intended to streamline religious organisations in Kenya.
Bishop Mark Kariuki on behalf of the evangelists said they would use whatever means to ensure the government does not gazette regulations which they described as an attack on the church.
“The church in Kenya is under attack… yes, it is under persecution. But do you know why we are under attack?” Bishop Kariuki asked.
And, he had a response to his question: “It’s because we in church remained quiet for a long time and we upheld the teachings that if one slaps you on one cheek you should give him the other cheek. Now we have been slapped on both sides. We now have to stand up and say nobody spoke about the third slap!”
Kariuki further described the church as the scared dog that had now been pushed to the corner but had to bite back.
“When you push such a dog that it cannot move any further, it opens its mouth and prepares to bite and when it does that, it cannot come out of that corner without a piece of human flesh in its mouth.”
As Bishop Kariuki spoke aloud to condemn the government’s move, the conference room filled with about 500 church leaders roared with echoes amen! and ‘shetani ashindwe’ (may the devil be defeated).
In their view, the government was wrong to make it a requirement that every pastor should have a minimum qualification of knowledge in theology.
To become a man of God, they said, is a calling that does not require any qualification.
“With education or no education, the call is personal. As believers we know that some anointed men of God like Peter the fisherman, he was called unlearned, but he later became Peter the Rock.”
The churches represented were also opposed to annual membership in their churches claiming that it would constrain their worshippers from moving to the churches of their wish.
The church leaders also asked the government not to ask for tax returns from branch churches proposing that it should be up to the umbrella churches to coordinate their branches and submit their tax revenues.
The new regulations demand that any individual church must submit on annual basis a registry containing the personal details of all its members as well as require individual member churches to be members of an umbrella body which must have 2,500 churches registered as an umbrella religious society.
In their view, if the government’s directly taxes the church branches, ‘it would bring confusion’.
They also protested against the ban on broadcast preachings and appeals in which audiences are asked to contribute money.
They argued that their work was to spread the word of God using all means and that giving, is in the Bible.
To demonstrate their defiance, Bishop Margaret Wanjiru a former assistant minister and MP while taking the opportunity to announce that she would be vying for the gubernatorial seat in Nairobi said that no one should bar churches from collecting contributions.
She led the leaders in collecting money saying they had to lead by example in asking for contributions.
People crowded to the podium as they threw notes of thousands, five hundreds and others in an outright show of defiance.
“Tujitayarishe tuchukue sadaka, hata saa hii. Hakuna mtu atatwambia tusichukue sadaka,” she announced alongside a paybill no. and account in which to deposit bank cheques.
According to Bishop Kariuki, it was up to the government to deal with rogue pastors and churches but not to subject churches operating genuinely to censorship likely to infringe on freedom of worship and association.
“If one potato is rotten, you don’t throw away all the potatoes. Remove the bad ones alone,” he said even as he warned that those who fight the word of God would perish.
He urged members to remain united even as the leadership planned to mobilise their churches to get ready for a countrywide mass protest to fight the proposed regulations.
They complained that Attorney General Githu Muigai made the proposals public without consulting them as was the agreement made in two different meetings.
Earlier on Monday, Muigai told Capital FM News that the proposals had been made public to begin the process of discussion before they are legislated.
According to him, there was no intent to restrict operations of religious institutions or curb freedom of religion.
He explained that the proposed blend of State and self-regulatory measures were necessary to accommodate developments and challenges brought by the digital society which has presented new threats.
“Because of the challenges that we face now in 2016 we are trying to improve the address book. The addresses, telephone numbers, PINs, the regulations that are proposed are the ones circulated for discussion and consultation at this stage,” he said.
Earlier, the evangelical church leaders had began collecting signatures from their members to support their plan to move to court on Tuesday to seek orders halting the publication of the regulations.
However, during the Monday meeting, they said they would explore other ways of stopping the regulations before moving to court.