, 08 October, 2019 / 12:12 AM
In a move that many have applauded and described as a big stride on the part of faith-based leaders in the fight against corruption in Kenya, Catholic Bishops in the East African nation have launched a six-month country-wide campaign against graft aimed at what these leaders have labeled “Breaking the Chains of Corruption.”
Through a declaration and a set of symbolic gestures at the Village of Mary Mother of God Shrine, Subukia along Nyahururu-Nakuru highway on Saturday, October 5, the Bishops in Kenya sought to manifest their resolve to fighting against the vice that has portrayed Kenya in bad light globally.
Among the declarations of the Prelates was the establishment of a corruption complaints desk in all Catholic Churches across the country “to keep a record of reports of corruption that the public may wish to make.”
The anti-corruption campaign, the Bishops declared, will involve the renewal of “baptismal promises in all our Churches on Sundays, using the specific formula that highlights the rejection of the evil of corruption.”
The shepherds called on all Christian faithful to sign a personal declaration committing to fight corruption, a vice that has, according to the Bishops, “imprisoned our hearts, families and indeed our entire society.”
Seeking to address allegations that some politicians have been providing ill-gotten money to Churches during fundraising events, the Bishops declared a shift from cash to electronic transactions in order to have details of the donor.
“Contributions to fundraisers in our Churches will be done by mobile money transfer or preferably by Cheque. This will avoid the handling of large amounts of cash, and give a clear trail of the donors. We wish to move towards cashless donations,” the Bishops announced in their Saturday statement named “Subukia Pastoral Declaration on Corruption.”
Speaking to ACI Africa on the sidelines of the Subukia event, the Chairman of the Kenya Catholic Bishops Conference (KCCB), Archbishop Philip Anyolo disclosed the reason behind their decision to decline cash donations saying, “We know that when one gives, they do so with good intentions of the church, that’s okay. But now that there is the issue of corruption ... we now have put rules in place so that corruption does not find its way through the Church.”
The Bishops also pledged to be transparent about Church fundraising activities saying, “We will declare and keep open as we have tried to do so far, the lists and accounts of our projects and any fundraising initiatives in our Churches or institutions open for public scrutiny.” the statement also states.
At the same time, the prelates pledged to “keep a record of any gift to a religious leader exceeding Kshs 50,000 (USD 500),” and that “all gifts should be accompanied or acknowledged by a letter.”
In order to preserve the sanctity of the Church buildings, the Prelates declared a ban on politicking in their places of worship saying, “our Churches will not be used as political platforms or for any other motive other than for the liturgy and worship of God.”
“We shall therefore not allow any address within the Church of any non-liturgical character,” the Bishops declared and clarified, “All such addresses that may be opportune to make, will be made outside of the Church with due dignity.”
Asked about an earlier incident in which a Bishop’s public speech was interpreted as an endorsement of a political candidate, Archbishop Anthony Muheria of Nyeri told ACI Africa that the Bishop’s utterances were not in the name of the Church in Kenya.
“We do not support any individual at any time ... however, each may have their own particular support but that is not the position of the Church. The Church has always been non-partisan in political matters,” Archbishop Muheria clarified and added, “We embrace all people from all sectors and political backgrounds.”
Taking note of the tendency on the part of politicians to use occasions of Christian burials to do politics, the Bishops pleaded “that the true nature of our funerals be restored, to condole and pray for the family and honor and pray for the deceased.”
“Anything political or developmental should be specifically excluded for honour of God and respect of the deceased,” the Bishops declared.
The Bishops’ declarations, which were made during the National Prayer Day were characterized by a series of symbolic gestures aimed at manifesting the Bishops' commitment to fighting against the vice of corruption.
“We come out in a prophetic gesture of mourning, to call to God for his mercy, to call to all people and especially all Kenyans, from the lowest to the highest, from the youngest to the oldest, to change our wayward ways, and decide to personally reject any act or form of corruption,” KCCB chairman, Archbishop Anyolo declared on behalf of the Bishops in Kenya.
The Bishops walked barefoot and knelt before the altar as a sign of their humility when seeking God's mercy, and at the same time, “mourning of our society for the loss of commitment to God's laws and for the exploitation and abuse of the poor, sold for a penny, (and) for the many debts caused by corruption.”
“We do so with humility by removing our shoes, in solidarity with those who have suffered and continue to suffer the dehumanizing effects of Corruption, especially those living in miserable conditions,” Archbishop Anyolo explained the significance of walking barefoot at the Marian Shrine that stands on the Equator, the point where the Northern and Southern hemispheres meet.
The Bishops also carried crosses “as a weapon against this fight of the devil in corruption because Christ, by the cross, already overcame the devil and death.”
“We come against this evil with the cross of Jesus Christ and a true adherence to what the Holy Cross calls us in baptism,” Archbishop Muheria declared and went on to explain, “We are all sent to carry this cross in society and bring life and light in the darkness of corruption.”
In addition, the Prelates wore white and green ribbons as a sign of commitment to standing up against corruption.
Finally, each Bishop read, signed and handed over a personal declaration to the Chairman of KCCB as a sign of commitment that they will spearhead the Bishops’ collective initiative of fighting against corruption in their respective ecclesiastical territories.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa