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“Only faith can recover lost politics, restore humanity in politics”: Kenyan Archbishop

Archbishop Anthony Muheria of Kenya’s Nyeri Archdiocese during the Church and Politics Summit 2021/Credit: Courtesy Photo

The practice of trading insults that characterizes politics in Kenya can only be addressed by paying attention to faith principles, a Kenyan Catholic Archbishop has said.

Speaking during the Church and Politics Summit 2021, Archbishop Anthony Muheria of Kenya’s Nyeri Archdiocese observed that in Kenya, politics “have very often been toxic, slipping off the paths of incivility to arrogant competition of insults to ridicule and lies.”

“It is my conviction that only the faith communities, only the churches, indeed only faith can recover the lost politics and restore humanity in politics,” Archbishop Muheria said during the virtual event Friday, June 18.

In his presentation titled, “The Church as a Mediator,” the Archbishop made reference to St. John Paul II’s role in the fall of communism, citing it as an illustration of how the appropriate order of politics was restored.

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“Pope St. John Paul II is undisputed in bringing change to the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) by maintaining peace in the transition. His undying efforts to mediate for the end of communism in a peaceful manner culminated in the fall of the iron curtain and the liberation of the land without bloodshed,” t the Local Ordinary of Nyeri Archdiocese said, adding, “This is the power of Christian mediation driven by God.”

Christian leaders who spearheaded the fall of communism were driven by “passion for good, for God and for His people,” he further said.

“Only when we recover this reality that every person has responsibility in the society, as a Christian, as a member of the Church, and as the Church will we be able to intervene for God and society,” he said.

Like Pope St John Paul II, the Church is mandated to “build a bridge and to let the two extreme positions communicate and agree,” the Archbishop who Chairs the Commission for Social Communication of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) further said.

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“The Church as a mediator, in the context of this summit, refers more to the moment of strife in conflict," Archbishop Muheria said, adding, "This is perhaps the most critical mediatory role the Church is called to play when political differences rise to volatile heated levels." 

"This is when violence seems to beckon due to the toxic political rhetoric and difference between political players whether individually or as groupings holding different persuasion," he added. 

He continued, “The Church does and should be more engaged in these moments of standoff to bring about peaceful engagements. This is essential to her mission of favoring and fostering peace amongst peoples."

"The Church does not need permission of the political class to engage at this or any other levels. We are bridge makers by calling,” the Kenyan Archbishop said. 

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Besides engaging parties in conflict, the Archbishop said that the Church is also tasked with “mediating a path to the common good, towards peace, harmony and unity even before there is a strife or a standoff.”

"The Church has an important role to try and solve conflicts as the soul of the nation, also facilitate the safe navigation of leadership towards common good,” he said. 

He added that the place of the church amid conflict is "merely to continue the role of mediation to obtain the good that Jesus wants for us and every single citizen has a right to that good of happiness." 

In playing her mediatory role, credibility is critical, the Archbishop said, and emphasized, "The acceptance to mediatory function depends largely on the credibility of the mediating party."

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Establishing and maintaining relationships will various parties in conflict is also also important, Archbishop Muheria said.

"We must invest in relations with all parties and political players," he said, adding, "That means, we must engage them on a day-to-day basis on normal times and not only when the house is burning." 

Mediation also requires particular traits, the Archbishop said, highlighting "humility, prudence and negotiating skills." 

"We have been brought into the current ways of doings including the political styles of arrogance and showmanship.  Mediation requires humility and discussion," he said. 

Mediation, he went on to say, "cannot be for personal glory but for the glory of God. It is not an opportunity for us to shine but an opportunity to let the nation shine, God shine." 

He also underscored the need to foster "common grounds that is common good." 

"We must seek the uniting elements and objectives that become deeper reasons to compromise in other secondary matters," the Kenyan Archbishop said.

He added, "Among these values are the national anthem we must internalize, the core values enshrined in our constitution, those elements that as Christians we believe in and the foundation of human value and human dignity in which other values are based."