THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL

Clergymen at crossroads over Politicians' huge tempting cash

NCCK clashes with ACK over church harambees saying they have been there since the history of the church

In Summary

• ACK says it had banned harambees in sanctuaries.  

• Opposition leader Raila Odinga has hit out at corrupt leaders for turning churches into avenues of laundering money

Deputy President Dr. Willian Ruto welcomed by clergy during the Holy Week Service at the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa (AIPCA) Muthua-ini, Tetu, Nyeri County
Deputy President Dr. Willian Ruto welcomed by clergy during the Holy Week Service at the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa (AIPCA) Muthua-ini, Tetu, Nyeri County
Image: DPPS

Churches are on the horns of a dilemma over huge cash donations and hefty gifts from ‘benevolent’ guests amid growing pressure to ban harambees from the God's houses. 

A section of the political class has warned that the church is the biggest hurdle in the anti-graft war, as it continues to accept millions of shillings from people suspected to be engaging in corruption-related activities.

In a statement, the Anglican Church of Kenya yesterday said it will not allow “harambee money to become a subtle way of sanitising the corrupt leaders” but failed to ban fundraisers at the pulpits.

Whereas we acknowledge the role of the harambee spirit in the development of our society, the Anglican Church is evaluating holding of fundraisers in their sanctuaries by politicians
Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit

The church finds itself in a catch-22 situation. The ACK said Christians, including politicians, “are expected to worship God with their resources quietly as the Bible teaches”.

“The bishops and Christians should hold fundraisers outside church buildings,” Sapit said during a press conference in Nairobi.

This was the clearest indication from the church that they might slam brakes on top politicians who deliver millions to churches on Sundays with the intention of enticing worshippers.

Sapit said he will launch a countrywide campaign to educate and lead the faithful against corruption and demand that proceeds of corruption be repossessed and channelled back to the public.

“Today, I'm taking a personal commitment to speak out and do everything in my power to fight this heinous virus of corruption, which has befallen our motherland,” he vowed.

“I've taken this strong position against corruption because I've seen the consequences of this evil and the danger it poses to our motherland.”

But the National Council of Churches of Kenya said the church has no capacity to determine the proceeds of corruption when the faithful or invited guests give out their donations.

 

NCCK deputy general secretary Nelson Makanda told the Star that unless someone comes back to church and confesses having donated a proceed of corruption, it would be impossible for them to tell the source of such offerings.

“The concern should not be about the guests the churches are hosting but where they have got the money. That is the responsibility of the institutions churches with dealing with graft,” reverend Makandia said.

He said the church encourages the faithful and guests to donate freely out of their will, quoting the Bible that "the left hand should not know what the right hand gives."

“I wish to ask churches to allow people to give without declaring publicly. Because this has led to a concentration on those who give millions in one day and go at the expense of honest church members who give all the time,” he said.

"A policeman who brings Sh100, which he or she has obtained through bribes at a roadblock, and a politician who brings ill-gotten millions are the same before the eyes of God."

The churches spoke against the backdrop of a vicious debate on harambees in churches.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has hit out at corrupt leaders for turning churches into avenues of laundering money obtained illegally from public coffers.

"What we've been saying is that we've seen churches being used as avenues for laundering money acquired illegally. Every weekend people are going for harambees in churches and donating money, with the faithful clapping for them without questioning the source of their money," he said on Saturday during a church function in Ahero, Kisumu.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka has also cautioned clerics against accepting money suspected to be proceeds of corruption.

Speaking during a church service at AIC Kanisa in Mlolongo on Sunday, Kalonzo claimed some politicians could be using the church to 'sanitise' the money they could have stolen from the public coffers.

"The church must stand to be counted in the fight against corruption by rejecting money suspected to be proceeds of crime," he said.

Although the two leaders did not name names, their statements could have been a veiled attack on DP William Ruto over his huge donations in church fundraisers.

Ruto's penchant for church donations has been a subject of heated debates, with a number of leaders questioning the source of the millions he has been using to bankroll church activities all over the country.

The DP has, however, remained unapologetic about helping religious institutions and fashioned himself as an evangelist dedicated to spreading the gospel and supporting churches — at one point saying he is investing in heaven.

Ruto has pointed out that he was raised by Christian parents and quipped that “If I were not a deputy president, I would be an evangelist."

“There are people who sometimes shock us by asking why we go to churches and why we donate towards church projects. But if you investigate these people, they spend their money on witchcraft,” Ruto said earlier this year.

“Because we do not ask them where they got the money that they spend on witchcraft, they should let us contribute to the work of God.”

Ruto almost always delivers a bundle of well-arranged crisp notes into the hands of smiling clergymen, while mocking his critics as devil worshippers.