A lot has been done in Kenya in the name of God. The other day, a pastor in Machakos is said to have been caught praying for naked women in the middle of the night, as if clothes have been known to hinder answers to prayers. In the name of God, a group of gun blazing youths recently left an entire nation wounded and 148 promising Kenyans dead.
This is not the first time “shameful” activities are done in the name of God.These days, the miracles promised in the Holy Books to anyone who believes, are now on sale on the pulpit, in parks and in buses. In pursuit of these seemingly elusive and expensive miracles, many a people have sold their shambas and other possessions only to be robbed of the hope that put them on that journey. Others have in the name of God refused to take their children to school for education or to hospital for treatment. The list is endless.
Christianity isn’t the only religion that has had its fair share of challenges in the name of God. Our Muslim friends are now looking for ways to deal with the radicalization of the younger Muslim generation into religious militias that have seen Kenya lose many lives, the recent Garissa attacks still fresh in our minds. We have seen Mosques turn into battle grounds as the police raid and disband suspects hiding inside the mosque.
Religion is personal maybe that explains why most people are very defensive when it comes to matters religion. But does that mean we ought to turn the other way when religious injustices are going on unchecked? Where do we draw the line? Do we have to wait for lives to be lost for us to act? Do we have to wait until an entire generation has been radicalized before we say its needs to stop? Or an adherent who will not take his children for immunization and chases away health officers? What must happen for us to start talking about the danger of “unchecked religion?”
What can you and I do anyway? I believe the answer lies in very uncomfortable quarters -cleaning up our places of worship. Christians already have a perfect example on how to clean their places of worship. Jesus once went into the temple and chased out the people who were doing the wrong business in the temple. Our places of worship, just like during Jesus’ days, have become “A den of thieves.”
The government has intimated that they want to start regulating religious institutions. My suggestion is we do it ourselves; if we don’t and the government authorities do so, I guarantee you there will be an uproar. We will feel as though our holy places are being intruded by outsiders and most likely we will be up in arms.
I believe the religious umbrella bodies like the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) and Supreme Council of Muslims (SUPKEM) need to be empowered especially by the religious groups they represent to play a more active role-in monitoring what happens in their respective groups. These umbrella bodies also need to have powers to shut down religious institutions that do not adhere to their code of conduct.
There should be registration procedure put in place before one is allowed to start a church. All activities happening in the Churches, temples and Mosques should be privy to their umbrella bodies. If any doctrine is being taught in any religious institution that is not in line with the Holy Books, action should be taken against that institution. This way, the government authorities will only need to deal with the religious bodies as they do with unions.
Religious leaders will need to do what they preach and be humble enough to submit to their umbrella bodies just as the congregants submit to them. Their finances need to be audited by an independent professional auditing company. This way, if any activity is noted in a religious institution that is questionable, the umbrella body will be asked to account for them. If that institution is not registered then the government can close down the institution and take legal action against them. If it is registered then the government deals with umbrella body who in turn takes action against the individual institution that is “out of line”.
Sadly (and God forbid), if status quo remains and we don’t put some controls to our religious institutions. Religious intolerance will soon soar and cause religious institutions to form militia groups to “protect” themselves from the other religion or fellow religious institutions. Worse still, religious leaders might start aligning themselves with political leaders who promise them “protection” once they are in power.
Pirelli, the world’s fifth largest tyre manufacturer have a slogan, “Power is nothing without control” and a common phrase from the Spiderman movie is “With great power comes great responsibility.” Friends, our religion and our faith need to be checked for our own good. The latter (faith) is personal responsibility. You and I have the great responsibility (are mandated) to live our lives as the Holy Books we subscribe to dictate.
Libraries are a great resource to help us add knowledge and complement our education. Spending time in the library reading is beneficial to our education but it does not guarantee passing exams. In the same way, Churches, Mosques and other religious facilities are just aids to complement our faith. Regular attendance helps us increase our spiritual knowledge but these institutions should never replace personal devotion and effort required to grow our own faith.
Power is nothing without control and with great power comes great responsibility.
Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru