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Catholic Archbishop in Kenya Emphasizes Bishops’ Ban on Political Campaigns in Churches

Archbishop Anthony Muheria of Nyeri Archdiocese. Credit: ACI Africa

Politicians in Kenya have been cautioned against using church premises including the pulpit for their political campaigns.

In his message to Kenyan local media Sunday, September 12, Archbishop Anthony Muheria of Kenya’s Nyeri Archdiocese reiterates the ban on political campaigns in churches issued last month by the Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB).

“I plead with all following the call of our chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops that we be firm, that the politicians have a place to come and pray but have no space to speak in our Churches,” Archbishop Muheria said September 12. 

The Kenyan Archbishop added, “The Catholic Church has said very clearly that we will not allow the politicians to speak in our churches.”

“Dear politicians, if you're coming to pray in our Churches you're welcome and sit like any other ordinary Christian and please do not expect to address people in our Churches,” the Local Ordinary of Nyeri Archdiocese who doubles as the Chairman of the Commission for Social Communication of KCCB said.

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Politicians should "not expect special treatment” when they take part in liturgical celebrations, he reiterated, and added, addressing himself to politicians in Kenya, "Come to speak to your God and leave."

Kenyan news media outlets have featured politicians addressing worshipers in churches, in images and video footage that show politicians in the foreground on the pulpit and members of the Clergy in the background in what has been described as politicians’ “hijacking of the sacred space.”

The phenomenon seems to have become a “new normal” in the East African country that is preparing for elections in the next 11 months, creating concerns among a section of church leaders who have sought to “recover the sacred space.”

In a recent newspaper review of five Kenyan mainstream dailies, TUKO, a Kenyan online news site, reported, in reference to The Standard, “The daily also focused on the new normal being embraced by major churches regarding politicians attending services.”

“Many politicians had resorted to using the pulpit to sell their ambitions in readiness for the 2022 vote. They have been on record name-calling their rivals as they charge supporters for political showdowns whenever they are given a chance,” TUKO reports in its September 13 review of Kenyan newspapers.

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In his September 12 message, Archbishop Muheria who also featured on Kenya’s Citizen Television to explain the ban on politicians addressing worshippers, explained the kind pressure church leaders are having amid political campaigns.

Making reference to Kenyan politicians, the Catholic Archbishop said, “Because of their greed for votes and popularity, they have decided the places of worship are owned by them. They are demanding, in churches, in places of worship, to have a political rally, to address people politically.”

“Dear politicians, can't you be Godly a bit? Can't you give God his due?" the 58-year-old Catholic Church leader posed, and continued, “Why do you equal yourselves to God and this is what COVID-19 has taught us when we are so filled with ourselves with our power then we see how powerless we are?” 

“We are on our knees because of COVID-19," he said, and added, "Dear politicians, please don't call God's curse upon us. We would hate to come and lose all politicians because they have ceased to respect God.”

The Archbishop further appealed to Kenyan politicians, “Let us once more give God his due. This is my cry, this is my appeal, this is the appeal of the Catholic Church. This is the appeal of all people who fear God."

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He underscored the need for all Kenyans to respect places of worship saying, "It's important that this year we get God back in his place and don't let man, politician or otherwise or a person who is perhaps more moneyed.”

Last month, KCCB Chairman directed that politicians stop politicking in Catholic churches. 

“Let politicians attend and support church functions as congregants but should not be allowed to address congregations. We don’t want politics in Catholic churches,”  Archbishop Kivuva said August 21. 

The head of the Anglican Church in Kenya (ACK) has also barred politicians from speaking in Anglican churches across the East African nation.

“I have banned politicians from speaking within the Anglican Church. When we come to the church, everybody is welcome but we have the pews and the Pulpit. The pulpit is for the clergy and the pew is for everybody who comes to worship,” Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit said September 12.

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Archbishop Ole Sapit who was speaking at the consecration of the first female Anglican Bishop in Kenya added, “We have seen the Church is becoming the battleground for political expediency and is no longer identified as a place of worship.”

“The Anglican Church of Kenya is a no-go zone for political rhetoric,” the Kenyan Anglican Archbishop said September 12.