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Ban on politicking in church is long overdue

OPINION
By Kalangi Kiambati | September 16th 2021

Arch Bishop of Mombasa and Chairman of Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, Rev. Martin Kivuva, (right) is exchanging pleasantries with his colleague, Arch Bishop of Kisumu, Most Reverent, Phillip Anyolo (Left), after a press conference at Karen, on  September  15, 2021. [Samson Wire,Standard]

Politicians are treating churches with disrespect just like traders of the olden days

"Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves." This excerpt from Matthew 21:12 is what has been on my mind since ACK Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit barred those seeking elective positions from running their campaigns in the church. I think this ban was long overdue.

Religious institutions have sat on the fence for far too long, especially in their dealings with the political elite. Some politicians have, in turn, taken religion for fun and used it for selfish political gains every electioneering period. It is unfortunate that some religious leaders have allowed the political elite to make a mockery of the church and other houses of worship by showing up for what seems like occasional transactional relationships only when they need to score public relations points.

Do not get me wrong, many politicians are true believers and have real, consistent relationships with the religious leaders and other members in their places of worship. They are known members of their churches, mosques, temples and other places of worship. Others, however, show up only when they need a chance to address worshippers in what is to them, an opportunity to campaign.

Showing up in a place of worship and expecting to 'greet the congregation' is only part of their campaign strategy. Recently, there have been many pictures of political leaders acting ‘down to earth’ in their interactions with the people. They are drinking tea in a kibanda, shaking hands with mama mbogas and eating roast maize by the roadsides. This hypocrisy is expected to slowly gain momentum, hitting peak levels sometimes next year. It is quite commendable that the ACK leader has taken a stand on the church’s expected interaction with those seeking to run their campaigns during church service. A religious leader does not owe any political leader a chance to speak during a service.

In a country where most politicians cannot sell their manifestos without maligning their opponents, places of worship can easily be used as platforms on which ethno-political tension is brewed. As the ACK leader rightfully put it, politicians should use other platforms outside places of worship to address their followers. There is already enough politicking in the media, and on every other corner throughout each week. People go to their places of worship to have quite moments with God. It is unlikely that anyone wants a political rally right in the middle of a sermon.

Other religious leaders should emulate Sapit and only allow politicians to the places of worship for what they need: Spiritual nourishment. This might be an uphill task seeing that many of them need the politicians’ support for infrastructural and other development, but they should put the needs of their congregations first and save them from unnecessary political rants that only serve to fulfill politicians’ goals. Just like the money changers of the Bible, politicians should not be allowed to take undue advantage of houses of worship.

Dr Kalangi is a communications trainer and consultant, Kenyatta University 

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