Murang’a fracas lays bare inconsistencies in church leadership

Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro at St Mark Igwe ACK church where he apologised over the chaos that rocked Gitui Catholic church in Kiharu. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]
Two weeks ago the country witnessed the unsavoury, shameful fracas that took place in Gitui Catholic Church in Murang’a County. Naming the two dishonourable politicians involved in the scuffle would only give them prominence and recognition that most likely was their motive for the outburst in the first place. Better to treat them as some have with regard to terrorists by not naming them or giving them free publicity. Such despicable characters thrive even on bad publicity.

Bishop James Wainaina was understandably outraged and has demanded a public apology for their appalling behaviour which to the best of my knowledge has not been forthcoming. The good prelate also disclosed in his press conference that he had no prior knowledge that the fundraiser was taking place. While the unpleasant event may no longer be in the national news no doubt the division and disharmony that was evidenced will continue to test the faith and values of the faithful back in Murang’a.

That such shameful behaviour took place in a house of worship is all the more disgusting. Yet, while the fracas was shocking it should hardly come as a surprise to church leaders. There was a certain inevitability that the cosy relationships between opportunistic clerics and self-serving politicians would come to this. Once you surrender your independence and integrity to a tainted political class then a mere call to order will not rectify matters.

Put another way, the Murang’a incident must occasion a wake-up call for those who have been reaping fruits of easy money from dubious characters and sources. For several years, politicians have treated houses of worship as political platforms. Invited or not, they have no apology or hesitation about invading sacred spaces and proceeding to spew vitriol on their rivals and entertain worshippers as if they were on the Churchill Show. Of course these performances are always captured by the local stringers and half baked journalists who also get a share of the handouts.

Every Sunday news bulletin features headline news about church appearances. For the past few years most of these political invasions have been recorded in the Catholic Church. William Ruto perhaps led the assault on the sanctuary giving out tens of millions each weekend to beaming clerics who then proceeded to invite him to anniversaries, ordinations and probably birthday parties. Many even got free rides in helicopters and took selfies as they looked down on their impoverished followers. There were the occasional voices of protest about the source of the money and the integrity of the recipient. But for the most part the general silence of the prelates sent a clear message of ‘show me the money’, this is harvesting time.

The church sold its independence for 30 pieces of silver and lost its voice and space to comment with authority on the suffering of the masses or the rotten state of public morality. Once you hobnob with criminals you get contaminated and corrupted. Standards drop and you copy and ape the lifestyle of the criminal ruling class rather than the humble service of the man from Galilee. Men who felt called to do good have ended up doing very well, for themselves. As many tainted clerics as corrupt politicians go scot free.

What happened in Murang’a could have happened anywhere in the Republic. If the church is to recover its mission of being the conscience of society it must take a serious look at how it engages with public authority and how it handles offences that take place within its own structures and by its own personnel. Accountability and good governance must begin at home and churches must begin to sideline and defrock individuals unworthy to continue in ministry.

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Moreover, despite harsh economic times, the faithful are generally generous enough and creative enough to fund their own development projects in their own time. There is no need to depend on tainted money looted from the public coffers. Those churches that continue to be places of joy, unity, integrity and inclusiveness are thriving as beacons of hope and inspiration. They don’t need to be at the mercy of opportunistic politicians. Politicians are welcome there too just like every other believer; no special place, no hijacking of the service and without media acolytes. Over to the Prelates to set the standards and bring that discipline and respect back to the pews.

- [email protected] @GabrielDolan1

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Gitui Catholic ChurchMurang’a CountyFracas