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Why Archbishop Muheria is a good man

By Edward Buri | May 8th 2022 | 5 min read


President Uhuru Kenyatta partakes of the Holy Communion during the Mass at the interfaith State Burial Service of former President Emilio Mwai Kibaki at the Othaya Approved School Grounds, led by Archbishop Anthony Muheria of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Nyeri.


People know good people. The affirmation Archbishop Anthony Muheria received across the country on how he handled the services in honour of the late President Mwai Kibaki affirms that Kenyans’ eyes are still wide open and with capacity to be unanimously attracted to outstanding leadership. Anyone who thought Kenyans had lowered their leadership standards stands intercepted. Kenyans can still be charmed by sober, intelligent and loving leadership such as exemplified by Archbishop Muheria. That they imagined the Bishop as their president means Kenyans still know good people.

A minute not blown

If life ambushed you with an opportunity to tell the world just one thing, what would that thing be? Bishop Muheria got that minute in Nyayo Stadium when a young man broke protocol and made his way to the altar. The good Bishop did not blow it. With zealous security officers on the wings ready to practise on the man what they learnt in college, salvation came through the Bishop.

Attention was initially on the young man who wanted to address the mourners, but the talk after was about Bishop Muheria’s grace. That minute will linger and the words spoken by the Bishop will be cited and pondered. Clearly, the Bishop was not acting but living out what he believes about people. When you realise you are and can only be part of the larger humanity, you begin to humanise others – because you and them are inseparable. 


Muheria dignified the man by calling him “a son of the nation.” He legitimised his lowly feelings when recognised him as a mourner “emotional at the loss of our leader.” From experience, the security agencies would not see him as a man worth dignifying but one needing punishment. So the Bishop aware of this, quipped “Treat him well.”  Asked later about this commendable response, the Bishop said the surprise should have been him not showing compassion. According to him, what he did should be normal for Christians. But the way Kenyans lauded the Bishop should announce that his action was rare - even among clergy. Kenya has a regrettable culture of little sensitivity for others. Our sense of compassion is measured and selective. It is also occasional. Our kind of love is not randomly available – it needs time to load. What we saw with the Bishop was a reflex – a Muheria reflex!

Shepherd of all

Priest accessibility is not always a guarantee. It may be presumed but experience scripts otherwise. Some pastors preach to all in the church but are seeable by all church members. Only a certain caliber can access them. Those not of the defined class can be handled by other leaders in church.

Bishop Muheria was not blinded by the powerful people present so as to forget the lowly. He was priest of the renown and the unknown. He was serving a former first family but did not lose sight of the larger family of God. His reaction was effortless. A heart of service does not discriminate. Washing the feet is washing the feet of all that come our way. Service that discriminates becomes a transaction. What the Bishop did will print a mark in the mind of the young man. “Priest-handling” is different from manhandling! 

Embracing a stranger

The Bungoma man was an interruption to a meticulously planned event. He was a spoiler. The understandable immediate response would be Muheria anger. But when he punctured his way to the altar, the Bishop chose a road less travelled. Instead of shouting “There is a stranger here!” he let love shout by way of an embrace. The embrace removed the stranger mode and invoked a brotherhood mode. The Muheria hug normalises humanness for the least and the great. That is what the altar is for - perpetuating oneness. You need not know someone to treat them well. Love is not mature until it can be extended to all – including your interrupters.

What the Bishop did was not something he did for the first time. It must be something he does often just in diferent contexts. So when this moment came, he did just what he usually does. The scenario was different, but the response was the same. It was a product of an understanding within him that all people are valuable. What the world saw was a priest who loves people – all people. Compassion practised over and over becomes an “instinctive reaction” - a priest reflex. According to him, “this should be the Christian thing to do.”

Treat him well

When he said “Treat him well”, this was an intercession. We are not sure what the security men understood. We are not even sure how the orders from their commanders are impacted by an interruptive instruction from a clergyman. But we can be certain of one thing – it could have been worse. Essentially, “treat him well” meant “understand him.”

This is a call on behalf of all Kenyans whose frustrations take them to the streets to demonstrate. It is a call on behalf of all Kenyans who protest against underwhelming performances of the system. It is a call on behalf of Kenyans who knock on offices and make loud complaints about deception and poor quality services. Before we tear gas them. They are daughters and sons of this country. Before we punch their ribs with rungus, remember there is genuineness in their cry. Do not add tears where tears are already flowing. Do not inflict pain where pain is already unbearable. Do not eject where rejection is already projected by leaders who once claimed to love the people. Let them mourn the death of their expectations. As they do so, treat them well.

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