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PRAYING FOR VOTES: POLITICS AND THE CHURCH IN KENYA

Former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga – born again?

Former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga says he has left his violent past behind him and is a born-again Christian. He hasn’t just found God, he has founded his own church, the Hope International Church no less. Njenga is not alone in his Damascene conversion: it is election time and Kenya’s politicians are busy politicking by the pulpit and preaching to the party faithful, even on, or in fact particularly on, the ‘day of rest’.

ODINGA PREACHES THE WORD

Sunday saw Prime Minister Raila Odinga at the Jesus Is Alive Ministries in Nairobi. Was he preaching ‘the word’? Well he was in a way, he was preaching the word of Odinga, presidential candidate, ‘laughing off’, according to the Daily Nation, plans by Uhuru Kenyatta, Musalia Mudavadi and William Ruto to stop him attaining the top spot come polling day.

The Standard and The People newspapers on Monday carried a photo of Raila Odinga and his wife Ida, down on bended knees, the hands of Starehe MP Margaret Wanjiru (who is also a bishop at the Jesus Is Alive Ministries) on their heads.

The Prime Minister is obviously a very religious man: one visit to a church on Sunday did not suffice. He also

PM Raila Odinga and his wife Ida at the Jesus Is Alive Ministries

popped into the Lelboinet Seventh Day Adventist church in Nandi County where he spoke of the ‘bruising political battle’ ahead.

MARTHA KARUA AND THE BREAD OF LIFE

Back in Nairobi, Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua attended the ACK Christ Bread of Life Church St John’s Parish at a prayer service to mark the sixth anniversary of the founding of her party. She too was pictured in The Standard, hands folded in front of her, head bowed the hand of the Reverend Samuel Njoroge Karogo placed upon it.

MUDAVADI – NO DAY OF REST

On the seventh day Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi was not resting either. He was in his constituency at the African Divine church telling the assembled congregation that he was ‘gearing up’ for the presidential race. The Kenya Forum does not know if he mentioned God or any of that religious stuff.

PROFESSOR SAITOTI MINISTERS

Over at St Dominic’s Catholic Church in Nairobi’s Mwiki area, Professor George Saitoti, the Minister for Internal Security and Provincial Administration, was ministering. He declared that all Kenyans, even those indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, were entitled to stand for election: comforting words indeed.

PENTACOSTAL VICE-PRESIDENT KALONZO

And hot foot from a week-long visit to China, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka headed straight from the airport to the Karen Pentecostal church where he asked Christians to pray for ‘a peaceful, free and fair general election’. Fair dues to Kalonzo, at least he was preaching a message that had something to do with religion.

‘A CONVENIENT GUISE’

Writing in the Daily Nation on Monday, senior editor Denis Galava, in a hard-hitting article (Why Njenga’s transformation from Mungilki to pastor is not convincing’ – it’s worth a read), lambasted the erstwhile Mungiki leader Maina Njeng and the politicians and civil society leaders who court his support.

The separation of Church, State and politics is important in a democratic and free country

‘It’s sacrilegious to cheer him to cheer him on as he dances on the graves of Mungiki victims’, he wrote. He concluded: ‘Finding the Lord was a personal journey, now he must not turn the pulpit into a convenient guise for spawning a more virulent enemy of the people’.

Something similar could surely be said of our politicians, and indeed the churches that host them, for turning ‘the pulpit into a convenient guise’ for canvassing votes.

Does it all matter, this mixing of politics and preaching? The Kenya Forum thinks it does.

The separation of Church, State and politics is important in a democratic and free country. We need politicians to tell us their views and lay out their plans. We need the Church to set out the religious and moral criteria on which they think we should base our lives, and we also need to them to be independent enough to hold political leaders to account when they fall short of such ideals.

Let the pastors preach from the pulpit. Let the politicians pontificate from the podium. Don’t mix the two, says the Kenya Forum.

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