What if dialogue was the only way to Kenya’s salvation? Would we still reject it? What would that mean to our nation? Naaman had to dip himself in a river he considered dirty. That was his only way to healing. He had dismissed the prophet’s dirty-river solution and was returning home in his sick condition. But life is not always delivered on our terms.
His servants persuaded him. His healing came not from his lofty understanding but from the voice of his aides. They should have left their master to his wisdom. But they had faith on his behalf. He had them to thank for his baby-pure skin. We are becoming too philosophical about dialogue in an effort to dismiss its necessity. Dialogue is being rejected as if it serves nothing.
But we can understand such repelling from a power point of view – a measure of humility is a key ingredient in dialogue. But clearly humility is not a word in our leader’s vocabulary list right now! Well, it wasn’t too for Pharaoh, until it hit home and heart. Our politicians should not downplay the value of dialogue. They may not like it. But it should always be on the cards. There is a place for humility in politics. The absence of humility means the domination of pride and total suppression of opposing points of view.
Trashing dialogue translates into silencing voices that could otherwise be of value. Dialogue may not be easily accepted but it should be respected. In Kenya especially, we should know better than go on a chest-thumping tantrum! It is dialogue that has severally saved this country from total collapse. For this, it must be given the bow and honor due to it. Like Naaman who had to credit his healing to his servants, the church should be listened to. Salvation does not always come from a cabinet paper. It does not only come from a party’s highest organ. Sometimes the saving voice breaks into these lofty spaces from outside – just like the child in a manger who stirred and keeps stirring the world. The church has done a great thing – offered to lead the dialogue process. This is the kind of leadership that Kenyans need to constantly see from the church – a laudable move from “descriptionist” to “solutionist.”
But even in this great good, like the church in Ephesus, there are some things to that are messing with the credibility of the church as a dialogue leader. Like in Okot P’Bitek’s Song of Lawino, some of the priests have their lips stained with blood. They have been to the king’s feast! They have remorselessly taken a serving from the “empty coffers.” Others have been baptised in the waters of ethnicity and even given new names. This stumble into temptation has diluted the status of the church. It is seen as corruptible and therefore incapable. It is has proved buyable and therefore not reliable. An excited proximity to power and blind cheering of the ruling administration tames the church’s roar. A church drugged with political privilege loses her prophetic consciousness. Duty calls and finds her too intoxicated to stand. To restore her consciousness, the church must not only clean its blood-stained lips but resolutely walk away from the sorry feast.
In its call for dialogue, the church is being accused by both political sides of a misdiagnosis. The church should not retreat or stall. Instead, it must rebuttal its position on why it discerns dialogue as a solution. Leading dialogue is a position of power too! We must fan the narrative of dialogue and keep it alive for the sake of the present and the future. This is an open door to evangelise the country on peace with the mind of entrenching dialogue in our culture as a peace-sustaining practice within and without the political ring.
Ceding ground to another entity is never an easy stretch. Because dialogue threatens to take away some of the power from the powerful it will sure be fought. But it must be continually fronted as a tool for national salvation. The church is a darling when being lured to vote but will be seen as a devil when it challenges power. But a church birthed at the cross must be familiar with critique and even persecution.
There are those who condemn silence with their mouths but want it in their hearts. They speak peace during the day but stoke chaos in the night. Unlike Nicodemus who went to see Jesus by night, these disown Jesus at night! They feel that the current tension can turn into an asset. They see it as an opportunity to inflict pain on the political opponents. They see it as an opportunity to humiliate and if possible, annihilate their opponent. They see some gain from the pain. The masses are the last people on their minds.
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There has been talk of people in the opposition by day and in talks with the ruling party at night. Leaders with no convictions are a liability. They do not stand for any knowable thing. They are pendulums - swinging to where shillings abound. This phenomenon of political survival just cements the sad truth that very few leaders have the people at heart. Pity the people who are waiting to “feel the love” from their leaders by way of tangible improvement of life. Those elected – the chosen ones - have moved on from the masses and their minds now are with amassing. While some leaders see the demonstrations as a midwife for possible positions, others see them as a good distraction – as the country’s eyes are on the streets, their hands are in the country’s coffers. By the time the streets are calm, the dealers will join the peace - as if nothing was happening.
Who loves Kenya any more? We are a people fixated on what Kenya can offer us – not what we can offer our country. To think of offering your country anything is mocked. “Tell us about milking” they say. Not even the Son of Man’s revolutionary philosophy “I came to serve not to be served” distracts them. Crucify it! So our leaders are bosses – they sit and the masses who vote for them and pay taxes serve them (and they should expect nothing in return – they are just doing their bidding!). The tragic side of magical Kenya.