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Keep political mischief out of worship places

By Elias Mokua | October 14th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Recent events in which political antagonism, without shame whatsoever, caused disruption in places of worship in parts of the country are worrisome. It appears the line between political and spiritual space is narrowing by day, something that those of us who believe in God should seriously reflect upon. These spaces ought to be mutually exclusive.

What are the grave concerns over disruptions in places of worship? Let us start by ruling out the erroneous belief that politicians do not know places of worship are sacrosanct. We know that they, like anyone else who believes in God, actually worship. Many of them are active in their places of worship.

However, the new trend in which political rustlers walk into a place of worship and get away with acts that are disrespectful to the practice of worship says a lot about the unmet needs in places of worship.

Of course, political motives in causing the disruptions are at play. We also know some places of worship are commercial enterprises. But the focus here is on well-founded and religious institutions.

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Learning from the Covid-19 experience during which worship places were closed and therefore no tithes were offered, we know that worship is incomplete without financial support. Prayer is not as simple as kneeling to speak to God.

It involves a whole community as well as the persons responsible for ensuring the environment of worship is conducive. On their part, many religious leaders struggled to meet their upkeep.

Moreover, the role of worshippers in sustaining the activities around worship became quite apparent. In fact, some of the places of worship are yet to recover from the negative effects of closing.  

Over time, the needs in many places of worship have become either increasingly higher than the worshippers can afford, or the worshippers are not forthcoming enough. This is where the political actors come in as good Samaritans.

They know financial support is indeed an important component of sustaining a conducive place and practice of worship. With ready funds that are neither loans nor complicated to apply for, politicians walk in to needy grounds and generously provide the much needed support.

But this is where there is a catch 22. On the one hand, the political ‘good Samaritans’ know places of worship are sacrosanct and so make themselves appear like people of good will. Probably they are actually people of goodwill.

On the other hand, nothing much is given for free in this Kenya of ours. They donate but in return expect political support. This differentiates them from financially well-endowed people who support religious activities without seeking some form of returns. The latter group is very important in sustaining worship practices and the needs therein.

The first concern arising from worship disruptions is that it reduces the meaning and sanctity of places of worship. The last place anyone should show disrespect is a place of worship because that is where worshippers meet with God.

The second concern is that those giving financial support for religious purposes will begin to believe their money is so important that without it, worshipping will limp. Further, it will make religious leaders appear like beggars. Yet, financial support should never dictate the pace and practice of worship.

It should never make the faithful shift their attention from God to their fellow human beings. So long as the faithful own their place of worship, the little they are able to raise should suffice for the needs of their prayer practice in a broad sense.

The third concern is that the faithful will begin to think their little contributions cannot make a difference in their development plans. Big money by big ‘men and women’ is the only way of sustaining religious development.

In turn, the big men and women will look for ways of raising funds to support religious agenda regardless of where or how the funds are raised, for political gain. Eventually, a cycle of unethical and immoral interdependence emerges.

To avoid running places of worship down the aisle of shame, alternative ways of sustaining religious development should be encouraged.

For instance, there is no harm in constructing a church in five years rather than in three if only that is to protect the image of religious practice. Let people of goodwill donate because that is a good religious practice. But conscience should guide donations that can paint religious practice in negative light.

-Dr Mokua teaches communication studies

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