Is this why corruption is rife in our deeply religious nation?


Secretary and CEO of EACC Twalib Mbarak addressing the press during the Anti-corruption workshop for media practitioners at Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi on April 25, 2024. [Robert Tomno, Standard] 

Last week, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops through the Department of Justice and Peace, the Interreligious Dialogue of Kenya, and the Loyola Center for Media and Communications convened a conference titled ‘Faith Practice in Breaking the Chains of Corruption’. The event aimed to explore the intersection between faith practice and government responsiveness in service delivery. The conference thesis was an examination on why mega corruption thrives in a country where the majority profess deep religious faith resulting in the government’s limited service delivery. The discussions yielded six profound insights.

The first takeaway from the conference was the ambiguity surrounding the identity of the God worshipped by many of us Kenyans. St Augustine of Hippo, in his confessions, lamented the human tendency to create God in our own image rather than understanding Him as He truly is. This sentiment was echoed by speakers who argued that many Kenyans worship a God constructed to suit their conveniences, rather than the God of justice and righteousness depicted in the holy teachings.

Building on the first point, the second insight revealed that our understanding of God is often a false construct. St Thomas Aquinas in his "Summa Theologica" emphasises that God’s nature is absolute truth and justice. However, when people tailor their understanding of God to align with their own desires, it creates a disconnect between professed beliefs and actual behaviour. This distorted view of God fails to inspire the moral fortitude necessary to resist the temptations of corruption.

A recurring theme was the lack of a tangible impact of faith on daily actions. James 2:26 reminds us that "faith without works is dead." Despite professing deep religious convictions, many of us fail to translate faith into ethical behaviour. The speakers noted that true faith should compel believers to adhere to God's justice, including the denouncement of corruption.

One of the most striking points raised was the observation that money is often valued more highly than God’s commands. The Bible warns in 1 Timothy 6:10 that "the love of money is the root of all evil". The conference highlighted how the desire for wealth and material gain often supersedes moral considerations, leading individuals to engage in corrupt activities despite their religious beliefs.

The fifth insight was the numbing effect of a pervasive culture of corruption. Over time, constant exposure to corrupt practices can desensitise individuals, making them less likely to confront or challenge these behaviours. This moral erosion was likened to a societal malaise where the abnormal becomes normalised, and the urgency to address corruption diminishes. Such a culture not only perpetuates corruption but also stifles the moral outrage necessary to combat it.

Lastly, the conference discussed the societal tendency to reward the corrupt while scorning the just. Proverbs 17:15 states, "He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord." The speakers pointed out that individuals who uphold integrity often face ridicule and marginalisation while those who engage in corrupt practices are celebrated and rewarded. This inversion of moral values discourages ethical behaviour and perpetuates corruption.

All of us who believe in God have an obligation to introspect and heed our conscience in the face of corruption. This appeal sparked a robust debate among participants. Some advocated for a radical approach, arguing that believers should confront corrupt individuals and institutions mercilessly. They stressed that mega corruption devastates families and denies children a brighter future, necessitating a vigorous and unrelenting response.

On the other hand, there were proponents of a more educational and awareness-driven strategy. They argued that akin to the fight against HIV/Aids, combating corruption should focus on raising awareness about the detrimental effects of corrupt practices. This approach emphasises the importance of personal responsibility and the power of an informed conscience. By making everyone aware of the true cost of corruption, they contended, society could foster a collective will to reject and combat it.

Clearly, we have a problem. We have to create an informed national conscience to fight our silent killer terrorist: Corruption.

Dr Mokua is the Executive Director, the Loyola Centre for Media and Communication

By AFP 41 mins ago
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