THE ACTIVE ROLE OF RELIGION IN KENYAN POLITICS
The church refers to a group of people who are governed by similar rules and beliefs, who acknowledge a higher Being. Although the church and religion are used synonymously, there are many religions. The Constitution of Kenya provides freedom of religion, meaning that everyone has freedom of worship. Politics is generally involves allocation of vales in any social system. Politics is as much a part of the society as the church is. The two cannot exist in isolation. The church therefore has a moral obligation to maintain an active voice regarding politics in Kenya.
This paper uses secondary data to draw definitions of religion, the church, and politics. The paper lists supporting arguments on why the church should have an active role in politics.
Keywords : Church, Religion, Politics, Kenya
Politics and religion will always be intertwined. In the Christian Religion, the relationship between Church and state can be traced to the Old Testament where the prophets often acted as the hand of God challenging the state leaders including Prophet Nathan, Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Jeremiah, Isaiah among others. They challenged the leaders every time they strayed from the will of God. In modern society, the need to regulate politics and challenge politicians requires honest and people who would be incorruptible. Religion teaches inherent good and doing the right thing for the greater good. Religion and politics have many definitions that will be explored, drawing the conclusion on why religion and the church in Kenya should be actively involved in the politics of the country.
Stringer (2011) explains that we can define religion in many ways. He states that this includes in terms of its function, whereby it is there to answer people’s most fundamental needs. Stringer also argues that religion can be defined in terms of its content; where it is a belief in supernatural entities. Stringer concludes that religion can be defined in terms of the elements it consists of, which includes faith, belief and ritual.
Religion is a set of practices and beliefs that define relationships between a divine being and human beings. Different religions are defined by certain elements of a community who hold the same beliefs, worship, sacrament, morals, and sacred books. Many religions develop from a Nations history or a prophet who talk an ideal of life to their followers.
Some characteristics of Religion include having a religious feeling mostly described as faith, religious practices and believes and a community that share the same faith.
Different definitions have been argued over the years but what unites these definitions is the fact that they all tend to be primarily based on an intellectual reflection.
Kalman (2014) explains religion as a way of life with a set of beliefs. He argues that the set of beliefs must be shared by a community of people. Kalman points out that about a sixth of the people do not have a religion. Some people believe in God but they also feel that they can live good lives without being in a religion.
There are different religions in the world including Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism. Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Religion in Kenya
The predominant religion in Kenya is Christianity, with around 84 percent of the population practicing it followed by Islam that comprises of round 9 percent. Other religions practiced in Kenya include traditional religion, Hinduism, Buddhism and Baha’i.
The constitution of Kenya Article 32 provides for freedom of conscience, religion, belief and opinion. It provides that every person has a right to manifest any religion individually or in a community.
Religion teaches people to be the better people, kinder, with more integrity in their dealings.
Munroe (2017) explains that the idea of politics and government being defined solely as the art and science of government which has grown from three to include five more subjects.
Leftwich ( ) explains politics as the activities that lead up to binding decisions and the institutions which make such decisions. The Lasswellian offers the definition of politics as the process of who gets what when and how they get it. David Easton () states that a political system can be described as the interactions through which values are authoritatively allocated for a society.
Politics is therefore a process of allocating scarce values. A political system can be described as any persistent pattern of human relationships that involve rule, power and authority. Most definitions of politics agree on politics being the art of government, as a public affair, as compromise, consensus and as power and the distribution of resources.
Politics involves two processes; decision making and rule or enforcement. Decision making involves making resource allocations for the collective whole, while the process of rule induces members of the society to accept resource allocations as binding.
Politics leads to a government which helps nations to keep order, preserve life, and to protect property. Politics however has many contradictions. People who want to amass wealth and enslave others. The sad experience is that the nature of power as soon as men get a little authority they change and begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. A government is always and at all times both the instrument by which certain groups dominate others. It is also an instrument used in the interest of the rulers and to the disadvantage of the rules, while also ensuring a particular social order of achieving some integration of the individual and the good of the nation. Politics generally decides the tradeoff between freedom and order which forms the central feature of any political system.
Politics therefore in its broadest sense is the activity through which people make, preserve and change the rules under which they live. Politics involves rival opinions, different wants, conflict, competing needs, and opposing interests. People recognize that for there to be order and for the rules to be upheld, they have to work with others.
Religion and Politics in Kenya
Religion forms part of an individual’s identity and the society in which they live in, which also applies to politics. Religion therefore is intertwined with politics. Religion plays a key role in politics in every nation. It does not matter what religion a nation leans towards, all religions cannot exist away from politics.
Catherine () states that religion has been used globally as a political tool for various reasons, where in most cases was to gain and retain political territories.
Different religious groups are formed in Kenya that serves as mouth pieces. These groups include The National Council of Churches in Kenya (NCCK), The Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) and the Hindu Council of Kenya (HCK). The 2010 constitution states that there shall be no state religion and guarantees religious freedom and equal protection to all religions. This therefore implies that Kenya is a secular state.
Individual religious leaders have always been vocal in political stands taken by the government. Some religious leaders who are vocal and active in politics include Sheikh Balala, Archbishop (rtd) Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki, and Reverend Timothy Njoya. With Christianity as the dominant religion, the church in Kenya has played a key role in the country politics.
Catherine() argues that religion plays a key role in the society. It is an integral part of the society, making it a key variable in governance and politics. Society is full of tribalism, nepotism, human rights, and corruption. Religion encourages a society towards their better values which ensures that the people in politics have better values and govern the nation with integrity.
The church has been very vocal in their support of different political parties with the 2007 general election splitting the churches openly along ethnic lines depending on their leader’s backgrounds. The post election violence that plagued the country saw many churches burned down in the violence while their mediation efforts were largely unsuccessful. This was largely because the public did not view the church as a neutral arbitrator. The church later after the post election violence set up a national prayer day that was labeled a day for healing and national reconciliation.
The church should be actively involved in politics as it is a meeting point for many people in the society. This is a safe space where they can be educated on voting and the importance of getting involved in politics. However, this can be misused where some politicians use the pulpit during prayer services to promote their political agendas and get voters to their camps. The church should ensure that politicians are held accountable to their words and to the promises they make to the nation.
The church should be actively involved in politics to ensure that allocation of resources and values is made in an equitable manner with as little biases as humanly possible. Politicians amass wealth and grab property, divert development and infrastructure money to their own accounts, which brings about un-equitable distribution of resources. Advocating for good values to be upheld by the politicians ensures that the society is an overall great place for everyone to live in.
Alleviation of poverty, zero tolerance to corruption, provision of basic needs and holding the political leaders accountable are roles that affect the society and the church should actively be involved.
For the church to say and do nothing is tantamount to saying that the church is irrelevant in relation to the most important issues in human relationships. This would be a contradiction or denial of all that faith stands for.
The church also advocates for paying taxes and ‘giving Ceaser what belongs to Ceaser.’ This policy ensures that the nation has money for development purposes. The church encourages its followers to observe the laws that have been laid down by the state as well as observing good governance. The church should therefore be actively involved in advocating for peace in the country, a stable economic environment, education for all and sustainable development.
In conclusion, the Church in Kenya should be actively involved in Politics for the wellbeing of the Nation at large. To shy away from this role means that the church is willing to turn a blind eye to the society ills that accompany politics. The church should be on the fore front fighting for the rights of the people in the society, being the voice of the people who are less represented in all spheres of life.