A long time ago when Christian Religious Education was a subject in primary and high schools in Kenya, I am not sure it still is, I was taught that a church is defined in three ways; The building where people go to worship; A gathering of people who worship God and; The heart of an individual human being. It is in those days that I learnt that the church, in all the definitions given above was Holy. They are all in a way related in that we must first make our hearts a church before we have graces to gather as a Christian community and then in togetherness erect a building we can congregate. Even the staunchest opponents of sacred things, of sacred space in this case, accept the Christian community needs a place to meet, and on that basis they define the purpose of a church building in a non-sacral, strictly functional sense. Church buildings, they say, make it possible for people to get together for the liturgy. A fourth definition that I may add is the Authority of the church through its instituted leadership where all teaching comes from.
Ever since time immemorial, the teachings of the Universal church have been a source of moral authority. Some have followed the teachings sacredly, others fanatically, others without conviction, others just because you end up right either way. The church has always been a place of solace, a sign of peace and tranquility. It has always signified togetherness. It is that place we believe when we go to all our problems get solved whether immediately or with time is not of essence. It is secure. It is problem free. It is where we get taught what is right. The only problem is, we are not forced to do what is right we choose to do right. So the call that lest we forget, is ours to make sure we implement. The church, that is our hearts, has become a slave of worldly excitement. Popularism, a major component of secularism reigns in us. We are so careless we don’t care what the actual implications of our actions are.
Three weeks ago I attended a mass celebrated by John Cardinal Njue, his message, “lest we forget” what happened in 2007/2008. The consecutive masses both weekday and Sunday ones have preached the same thing. It took me down memory lane, reminding me of a movie I watched on “The Chatres”,where battles were being fought in church; it reminded me of the horrors of Rwanda where thousands of people were murdered in churches; it reminded me of our own stories where several people were burnt to death in a church during the post election violence; it reminded me of the several bombings that have happened in our churches; it reminded me of the fact that every day I go to church I must pass through a hand scanner to ensure I am not carrying anything that can bring harm to those I am going to worship with.
We all want peace, but how do we achieve it? We know how to defend our borders and our liberties, but how do we build the peace? Catholic social teaching proclaims that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they live. We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. Solidarity means that “loving our neighbor” has global dimensions in an interdependent world. It promotes peace as a positive, action-oriented concept. In the words of Pope John Paul II, “Peace is not just the absence of war. It involves mutual respect and confidence between peoples and nations. It involves collaboration and binding agreements.”
We are going to the polls in a day now. Tension is up, but we believe we shall vote peacefully. There have been a million and one peaceful campaigns rallies and prayers, yet still that fear lies within the hearts of many Kenyans. Yet, our own church has taught that we should love. Wouldn’t there be peace if we loved enough. Of course there would be. So what goes wrong? Hasn’t the church taught us to bear with one another? Then why are we at each other’s throats? Hasn’t the church taught us that we are a community of brotherhood? Then why are we regarding others from certain regions and others from the other? Why are we voting how we are voting? Why are we different when we are called to be the same? Is it that the voice of the church is not loud enough or there comes a time when it makes no sense? Isn’t the church called to demonstrate love? Then why are we so in fear of the others activities that our churches must be guarded and we must be searched for destructive weapon? What went wrong? Isn’t the church churchy anymore? Leave alone the building, what about our hearts? What happened to the teachings? Why are we profaning that which is Holy? The statistics in our country shows that 60% of the Kenyan population is Christian. What goes wrong? What went wrong? Is it that the political force is stronger than that which binds us in this community of brotherhood? Or is our ethnic brotherhood stronger? There are teachings on characteristics of a good leader, for instance, those who recognizes the value in other people, so continually invests in others, uses their influence for the good of others, has above average character i.e cannot be questioned, is visionary, and remains accessible and accountable to others. Are we really going to vote for that? Or is the political euphoria of “two horse race “too strong to compete with?
It is my prayer that this significant fraction will stand out and declare that we have profaned the church long enough and in the least, during our elections stand out and in them, the name of the church, as it was defined earlier, and the attributes with which we viewed it and the significance of it in our lives will be restored. Otherwise my fallacy that during political highs, the voice of the church really makes no sense will stand unchallenged. It isn’t too late to kick the mob mentality. We can follow our hearts, we can enact the teachings, it’s possible…