“It's not war”: African Theologians on Church Involvement in National Politics

Fr. Stan Chu Ilo. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Involvement of the Church in the politics of a country should not always be adversarial, seeking to always oppose the running of governments, Catholic Theologians have said.

According to Fr. Stan Chu Ilo and Fr. Alex Ojacor, the Church can lead by example in society, instead of always engaging politicians in fights emanating from what is perceived not to be working.

In their conversation on African Catholic Voices, the two Catholic Priests discussed the role of faith and politics in turning Africa's possibilities and hopes into reality in 2023.

Fr. Stan, the host of the podcast service of the Pan African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN) highlighted the belief that the Church in Africa is not engaged enough in politics, saying, “For some, the Church has not elevated the political consciousness of Africans. The result, as some people say, is that we have ended up solving problems that couldn’t have been there had we ensured that we have good leadership.”

According to Fr. Ojacor, Church leaders do not have to fight politicians in public to be seen to be working.


“People think the involvement of the Church in politics is about criticizing politicians in the public sphere. I don't agree with that,” Fr. Ojacor says in the January 10 podcast.

He adds, “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that is planted and quietly grows. It is like a yeast that is put in the dough and causes it to rise. The level of engagement and influence is not visible and adversarial as people would like to enjoy; because there are people who enjoy that public conflict between religion and politics.”

“I know the extent to which the Church in Uganda is involved in the country’s politics,” the Ugandan-born theologian and humanitarian says, and adds, “There is a kind of partnership between the Church and the government in various areas, and that is why some of the most vibrant institutions in the country are Church affiliated. Politics cheer up to every ordination in Uganda, be it of Bishops or Priests.”

According to the Chaplain Assistant at the Loyola University Medical Center, influence of Church leaders in politics should be from the inside out.

In the podcast, Fr. Stan reiterates Fr. Ojacor’s sentiments, noting that it is not helpful when the Church is always resorting to criticism. 

More in Africa

He says that though the prophetic call requires that Church leaders call sin by its name, the Church should negotiate with leaders to help protect, conserve and promote the common good.

Formation is important in elevating political consciousness among the people, the Nigerian-born Catholic Priest who teaches at DePaul University, Chicago says, and adds, “Sometimes, there is no political consciousness between what is right and what is wrong because our people do not have the correct political culture.”

“Our people have not been formally socialized through the political process. The task, therefore, is to develop a theology of the people, for the people, with the people so that they become protagonists and not antagonists. The Church can do this by the stance it takes towards politics; not to declare a war, but to embody and to exemplify what we want to see in politics,” Fr. Stan says.

He notes that the Church that does not like clannism in the country, should first stop the habit through the way Dioceses are run.  

“How many Bishops in Africa publish audited accounts of their expenses for instance,” he posits, and adds, “The best criticism we should give is what Pope Francis refers to as attraction. People should get attracted to what we are doing in the Church. We should look at how we pay our own staff in the Church before we start talking about the government underpaying workers.”


“We can become credible in Africa only when our churches become a mirror of how our African society should look like. Only then, the Church will become a light on the hill, which the people can see amidst the pockets of darkness that surround us,” Fr. Stan says in the January 10 podcast.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.