By Joab Apollo
The Anglican Church of Kenya has banned politicians from using its pulpit as a campaign platform, eliciting approval from an electorate weighed down by tough economic times.
Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, known for his boldness in telling off the political class for polarizing the country along ethnic and sectarian lines, made good these threats on Sunday when he publicly prevented presidential aspirants Raila Odinga and Musalia Mudavadi from addressing a congregation during the consecration ceremony of Reverend Rose Okeno as the ACK Bishop for the Diocese of Butere, Western Kenya.
“ACK is shifting gear. Starting this event, politicians will be addressing the gathering when the service has ended. The pulpit is for the clergy. ACK is a political no-go zone.” Archbishop Sapit declared, prompting Musalia Mudavadi, the ANC Party Leader, to walk out in protest.
As the campaigns for the 2022 general election gains momentum, Kenyan politicians have mustered the art of flocking the Church, donating huge chunks of money, to create an impression that they are God-fearing in the majority Christian nation. This has rubbed voters, who feel they should be using their standing in the society to address runway corruption and poverty, the wrong way.
In a classic case of religion being the opium of the poor, politicians have been gleefully dishing out money in gurney bags, building churches, buying cars and houses for the clergy, arguing they are Investing in heaven.
They do it as if competing, and some of them even chide their opponents for being too stingy to give to the church. Authorities have raised the red flag and accused certain leaders of using the church for money laundering, but investigations have not been speedy.
Kenyans are known for religious fanaticism, but the politicization of the Church has raised their eye-brows lately. They feel that the political class has hijacked the true mission of the church and replaced it with self-aggrandizement.
“You can’t tell us you are a true Christian following Biblical tenets but you use the pulpit to soil the reputation of your competitors. You engage in corruption and nefarious activities.” Said Rohda Mudasia, an Anglican Church of Kenya faithful while supporting the declaration by her Church.
Even though this move has been lauded by most Kenyans, it remains to be seen if the Evangelicals will take a cue. They have been the major victims of political sloganeering given their meagre resources. Key politicians have been thronging them, ostensibly to raise funds, occasions that have been turned into ethnic incitement.
This is not the first time the Anglican Church is pulling the rag from underneath the feat of Kenyan politicians. During the clamour for multiparty democracy, the Church through Bishops Henry Okulu, David Gitari unwaveringly stood up to former President Daniel Arap Moi, openly telling him “You are a dictator!”
Even though they suffered incarceration alongside key reformists of the time, multipartysm was achieved.