, 26 February, 2020 / 6:54 PM
As Kenya strives to combat corruption and unite citizens from different tribes and political divides through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), representatives of Catholic Bishops in the East African country paid the Head of State a courtesy call Tuesday, February 25, an encounter that saw the Church leaders express their support for BBI and the fight against graft, the Presidential Strategic Communication Unit (PSCU) reported.
The meeting came just days after Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, a Catholic, joined the Prelates, clergy, religious and thousands of faithful in the launch of the Lenten Campaign 2020.
The Bishops presented their Pastoral Letter whose theme is “Conscience Formation: Our Path to Renewal” during the Saturday event that took place at the Marian Shrine, Subukia, in the country’s Catholic Diocese of Nakuru. The call on Kenyans who “have stolen or unfairly taken public resources” to seek forgiveness and to change their ways was a key highlight of the Saturday event.
The Tuesday meeting between President Kenyatta and some of the Bishops in Kenya gave the Church leaders an opportunity to reiterate their concerns about graft in the country.
"If left unchecked, corruption is a major threat to the country's socio-economic well-being," PSCU quoted the Bishops as saying during their February 25 courtesy call to President Kenyatta at the State House in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
"The Catholic Church fully supports the government's sustained fight against graft," said the Bishops whose visit was led by the Chairman of Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), Archbishop Philip Anyolo and John Cardinal Njue, the Archbishop of Nairobi.
Speaking on behalf of Bishops in Kenya under their umbrella body KCCB, Archbishop Anyolo assured President Kenyatta of the Catholic Church’s commitment in instilling “good morals by preaching against vices like corruption," PSCU reported.
These assurances come months after the launch of a six-month country-wide campaign against graft by Catholic Bishops in Kenya under the theme, "Breaking the chains of corruption" aimed at fighting the vice.
Since the national launch, the anti-corruption campaign has also been launched in various Kenyan dioceses.
“We are pleased Your Excellency that since the launch of this campaign, the message has gone through our dioceses and down to the parishes," PSCU quoted Archbishop Anyolo as telling President Kenyatta Tuesday.
According to the 2019 Corruption Perceptions index by Transparency International, Kenya is ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world at position 137 out of 180 with a score of 28 percent.
During the Tuesday meeting, the representatives of Bishops in Kenya also assured President Kenyatta of the Catholic Church's backing of BBI, a somewhat controversial initiative that sprung up from Kenya’s disputed 2017 elections, which resulted in violence in the East African nation.
In a bid to combat post-election violence in the nation, a task force was set up to come with recommendations on “building bridges” among Kenyans divided along tribe and political affiliation, the latter mostly formed along tribal lines.
While promising support for BBI on behalf of Catholics in Kenya, the Catholic Bishops at State House Tuesday called for "a well-structured participatory process that gives every Kenyan an opportunity to be heard."
In his address, Cardinal Njue expressed his awareness of the divisions around BBI in the country and has been quoted as urging “all stakeholders to focus on the good of the citizens and forget selfish ambitions" while “selling” BBI to Kenyans.
This is not the first time that Church leaders have publicly supported the BBI.
In December 2019, through a joint statement with other religious leaders in Kenya, Catholic Bishops in Kenya seemed to endorse BBI.
The Bishops’ pledge to support BBI during the Tuesday State House visit has elicited mixed reactions from Kenyans on social media, some expressing support for the Bishops, others stating their disappointment.
"As a staunch Catholic, I'm in agreement with the Bishops because they have a moral responsibility to their flock on issues affecting them, not only on spiritual nourishment but also to air their views on issues affecting the good governance of our country," Amollo Edward shared on Facebook.
Josphat Indesia Muterema also supported the Bishops’ pronouncements on BBI saying, "Tuko pamoja na wao (we are together with them). We shall continue in support."
Insinuating support for the Bishops statement Kavinga James said, "The Catholic Church is always infallible in her teachings and directions."
However, Casimir Casmir, identifying himself as a “proud Catholic” asked to be disassociated with the Prelates' support of the BBI in his Facebook post.
"The way BBI is heading we are going to have the worst division in the country," Casmir claimed and added, "May God enlighten His servants so that they can ask for wisdom from Him."
Bob Micheni also denied allegiance with the Catholic Bishops’ sentiments posting on Facebook, "I am a Catholic but you can NOT make unilateral decisions for the Catholics on political correctness."
Meanwhile, during the Tuesday meeting, President Kenyatta thanked the Bishops for their visit and support saying his administration views the Catholic Church as a key partner in both the BBI process and the war against graft, PSCU reported.
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