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The Church must be the salt and light in these trying times

By Very Rev Canon Sammy Wainaina | April 18th 2021

Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) offices at the Intergrity centre in Nairobi.[Elvis Ogina.Standard]

As we go through the process of selecting the next Chief Justice, one wonders whether it is a process in futility. Public sentiment is that the candidate has already been identified by an Executive uncomfortable with an independent Judiciary. We saw this discomfort during Justice David Maraga’s tenure. This is the only institution that we cannot afford to lose to corrupt political systems. Unfortunately, it is under threat of being infiltrated. We pray that the incoming CJ will uphold the Judiciary's integrity and independence.

Millions of Kenyans are poor. But the poverty and suffering are not God-ordained. In the words of Nelson Mandela, they are man-made and thus prayers may not do much. The prayer we should take before our creator is for leaders who can end corruption to emerge, to stop borrowing, and make medicine, water and good infrastructure readily available.

If corruption, which siphons Sh2 billion daily from Kenyans into the accounts of individuals working with public officials, was stopped for a year, we would lift all families out of poverty and suffering. We would not need to increase the cost of fuel to immoral figures.

Every Sunday, I look at the congregants and know that each of them has four distinct needs – economic, social (family and wellness needs), political (security, safety and freedom) and spiritual. Our Lord Christ Jesus – whose suffering, death and resurrection we marked in the Easter season – showed us that before you focus on the spiritual aspirations of human beings, you must assure them of the other three areas of need (John 10:10).

I have chosen to focus on ethics and governance in my sermons because corruption is a sin that will lead to eternal death and damnation. It is responsible for earthly suffering and death due to the inability to have an umbrella large enough to shield those who need the cover.

The throne of God rests on justice and righteousness. Throughout the Old and New Testament, our call to do justice is clear. “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” (Psalms 82:3). “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17).

Corruption is an injustice and vile sin before God. Why then do we tolerate this vice that is killing our country? There are three factors. The first is attachment to tribe. Nearly 90 per cent of Kenyans vote for presidential candidates based on ethnic considerations, and not their ability and commitment to address the biggest challenges of our times – poverty, unemployment, lack of cohesion, and freeing citizens from the yoke of begging other countries for our basic needs.

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The political barons use this to do deals one election after another. This system places no obligation on elected leaders to perform since they know they will just craft the next ethnic alliance and win power for five years. Citizens are mere marionettes, hence the tag that ours is an ethnic census and not an election. Is it possible to change this in the 2022 General Election?

Civic education

The second factor is that most citizens are ignorant and unorganised. They do not know how corruption is responsible for their suffering. Civic education has not been done to show this connection. Government cannot conduct this education because its officials live off corruption proceeds and will not want to end this culture. It is only the Church and other faith communities that are organised enough to carry out civic education that is structured and sustained. Sadly, the Church has not seen this as part of its core business of lifting our people out of poverty and suffering. Instead, it tends to view it as the responsibility of politicians and government officials who are the architects of corruption.

Thirdly, the institutions that are supposed to punish corruption and reward good behaviour are toothless. Parliament has failed Kenyans the most by failing to perform its oversight role. If the Executive knows that it will be denied money unless it stops corruption, that will be a signal to all constitutional offices and other agencies to get their act together.

Kenya's hope will come from the Church and faiths that rise to the occasion and organise, educate, and inspire Kenyans to reject corrupt officials. The Church must become the salt and light of our nation because the families in our pews do not have anyone else to turn to.

Jeremiah 8:8 – “How can you say ‘we are wise and the law of the Lord is with us’? But behold, the lying of the pen of the scribes has made into a lie”. Habakkuk 1:4 – “The law is paralysed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted”.

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