Posted May 1st, 2012 by Wandia Njoya
Rev Canon Peter Karanja Mwangi
National Council of Churches of Kenya
Dear Rev Karanja
The Bible records different occasions when the Lord used the least expected members of society to express the Lord’s displeasure with those who were publicly recognized as the Lord’s servants.
One prophetic voice to the Lord’s servant came from the child Samuel, whom the Lord sent to Eli. Eli’s sons were desecrating the temple by exploiting women and the poor. Disgusted by this behavior, the Lord sent the boy Samuel to tell Eli that the Lord had withdrawn the responsibility assigned to Eli’s family to serve in the Lord’s temple, and that the Lord would not accept any sacrifices to atone for the evil Eli’s family had committed.
Yet another prophecy to the Lord’s prophet Balaam came from a donkey (Numbers 22). Because Balaam had disregarded the Lord’s instructions, the Lord sent an angel in Balaam’s path. Only the donkey recognized the angel, and the angel informed Balaam that had it not been for the donkey, Balaam’s life would not have been spared.
Numbers 27 records the case of the Daughters of Zelophehad who recognized that the law dictated that women could not inherit their father’s property contradicted God’s relationship with humanity and natural justice. With this confidence, they appealed to God, through Moses, to let them inherit their father’s property. Unlike today when leaders are too embarrassed to admit weaknesses and so admonish the people for appealing against laws they consider unjust, the Lord conceded that the daughters of Zelophehad were right in their request to inherit their father’s property.
God has used prostitutes like Rahab and Mary Magdalene, foreign widows like Ruth and kings like Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus to accomplish God’s will. Jesus Christ is the perfection of how the Lord uses “the least of these” to speak to the guardians of the temple. He was a mere carpenter’s son, born in the same room where cows and goats would sleep. He was poor, and had no where to lay his head. Yet he challenged the Pharisees and the Saducees, proclaiming the fulfillment of the law by grace and through the cross.
With so great a crowd of witnesses, I voice concerns about how the NCCK, under your direction, has consistently taken sides against God’s people in Kenya. The NCCK remained silent during the election chaos of 2007-2008, and was gracious enough to apologize to the Kenyan people for failing them. However, the positions you have taken since then do not show a fundamental repentance on the part of the NCCK. In 2010, the people of Kenya, tired of the cycle of violence, nepotism and corruption, saw a glimmer of hope in the draft constitution. Rather than affirm the Kenyan people’s desire for justice and equity, you drove a wedge between the people and their church leaders by abandoning the people to ratify the constitution against the wishes of their spiritual leaders.
Now the people of Kenya are crying out against Kenya political elite’s use of ethnic bigotry to exploit and manipulate the powerless. The political elites have strayed from their responsibility to “carry out God’s punishment on those who do evil” (Rom 13: 4), and continue to operate with impunity. Instead of appealing to the reason of Kenyans with solid political ideology, nationalist pride and social vision, the elites are resorting to cultural associations to curve voting blocks, not unlike what they did in 2007-2008 when they used rigging, murder, rape and pillage to manipulate voting patterns. With notes of as little as 100 shillings, they take advantage of the hopelessness and joblessness among the youth to assert their power through violence. Meanwhile, the President is furiously trying to shut the window of hope of ending impunity that has been offered by the ICC’s decision to prosecute some of those suspected of being responsible for the chaos in 2007-2008.
As the government commits Kenyans’ hard-earned resources to protect the rich and powerful who can afford their own lawyers, the IDPs stay in makeshift tents that cannot shelter them from the current floods pounding the country. There are women carrying scars and caring for children of rape. There are thousands of Kenyans traumatized from the loss of their property and families to beastly violence. There are even others who are haunted by the wrong they did, but who cannot find redemption or reconciliation due to psychological guilt-tripping, blackmail and manipulation by those who bankrolled the violence. Despite the development of infrastructure – which is now claiming lives – poverty is on the rise. Young men have given up earning a living decently, and are either drowning in alcohol and drugs, or have joined militias like the Mungiki and the secession movement of the Mombasa Republican Council. In the midst of this chaos, the President has affirmed the impunity of the rich through doing all he can to subvert the ICC trials, but in the name of unity, he has promised to visit violence on the poor young men of this country. This situation leaves the ordinary people of Kenya sadly watching their youth give up on the future, and nervously pondering how they can make it through the next elections without descending into more chaos.
But even as the people of Kenya are aware of their vulnerability to ethnic violence, they continue to put hope in the Church to provide the voice of reason and prophecy. They want to hear from the Church a perspective that treats Kenyans as people made in the image of God, as human beings with a heart, soul and mind, not just vessels of ethnic blood running through their veins. Your statement of April 28, 2012, acknowledges this expectation as communicated to you by the press. But just like in 2010, you have belittled this cry, this time by endorsing the political elite who are camouflaging ethnic voting blocks as cultural organizations.
Your rationale for this endorsement contradicts the basic tenets of our faith. Your statement refers to ethnic groups as the “communities” and the “tribes” of the clergy, yet the community to which the clergy is supposed to belong is the body of believers. If the clergy’s communities are only those with whom they share ethnicity, what does that say about the blood and resurrection of Christ? It essentially says, as one Rwandan clergy told Cardinal Etchegaray, that the blood of ethnicity is thicker than the waters of baptism.
Moreover, if faith is incapable of uniting us across gender, age and ethnicity, we are essentially affirming the racist stereotype of Africans as people with no reason, no beliefs or experiences to appeal to, and as caricatures who only act on instinct.
But thanks be to God, God affirms our humanity by declaring that God always takes the side of the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the alien. God is not to be found with the NCCK and other church leaders who share platforms with the ethnic bigots. Rather, God is in the IDP camps, suffering in the cold and rain with our internal refugees. God hears the moaning of the women scarred by rape and the loss of their children, and is a parent to the children exposed to such violence. God is even among the rank and file of the ethnic militias rendered vulnerable to manipulation by their poverty, ignorance and insecurity, assuring them of forgiveness and redemption to all those who repent
So even if the NCCK, like Eli, has chosen to ignore the flouting of God’s law and the exploitation of the people, God will raise a Samuel among our youth and bold daughters like those of Zelophehad to declare the year of our Lord in Kenya. God will still punish these vultures who profit from the misery of Kenyans. God will still release the captives, heal the sick and comfort those who mourn. Nevertheless, by writing to you, I still have hope that the NCCK will reconsider its endorsement of ethnic politics and instead defend the dignity of the oppressed and impoverished in Kenya.
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