Why I don’t envy the police in their mission to investigate cults

It is not the first time Kenya is sending folks on a wild goose chase

In Summary

• Ruto is treading where Moi already has in mainstream vs peripheral faiths

Image: OZONE

I read somewhere that the Kenya police were busy trying to identify cults and arresting cult leaders. 

I wish them success in their mission, but let’s face it, even with the best will in the world, they haven’t got much of a chance, especially because so many senior politicians appear to have ties with some of the very groups being investigated.

I don’t recall the last time the police independently prosecuted a senior politician in Kenya with any success. Politically motivated cases against those who have fallen out with the establishment don’t count in this context.

It’s not just the Kenya police who have had difficulty investigating cults. Their counterparts in countries such as the US have also failed dismally.

I have always been suspicious of these groups, and remember some years ago, I noted a comment to a newspaper article on cults, which said:

“A cult becomes a religion when its members become so numerous that they require recognition by a governing authority. 

“Witness the evolution of the Mormon religion in the US. Initially it was identified as a 'cult', but eventually, it had so many adherents that it was recognised by the US government as a religion.”

Another commented: “There is no distinction between cult, sect or religion. It all depends which side of the fence you are standing on.”

While an atheist commentator predictably said: “They are all one and the same when you're an atheist.”

Also, could the cops really differentiate the different cults that exist? For instance, does their investigation cover Hindu cults or are they just going after Christian-related ones?

There are some in the Islamic faith who might tell you that Sufi Muslims, such as Ismailis or the followers of the Aga Khan, are a cult. Others might say that the Baha’i are a cult.

Historically, early Christianity was considered just a cult by both Jews and Romans, and Islam was considered just a cult by mediaeval Christians, and yet here we are. Today, these are some of the modern world’s most revered faiths.

Some Catholics and Anglicans, when they are not pointing fingers at each other, will want to guide the police investigation in the direction of so-called non-mainstream groups, forgetting that they were once considered as such.

Don’t forget that just over a couple of decades ago, Kenya’s Parliament passed a motion seeking to cut back on and restrict non-mainstream religious groups “in the interests of public security and morality”.

About a decade before that, in 1999, the Presidential Commission Report into Devil Worship in Kenya was leaked to the media.

Despite having set up the commission more than four years earlier, President Daniel arap Moi had decided to shelve the report after it was complete, claiming that it contained sensitive information with "legal implications".

Clearly, the Catholic clergyman who leaked the report had no such qualms. He also probably had an ulterior motive or agenda because the report targeted, among others, the Mormons and the Freemasons, which it said were "gateways to devil worship".

That report also called for the establishment of a special unit within the police force to tackle the problem of “devil worship”, which it claimed was so widespread, it represented the single greatest threat to Kenyan society.  

There were, of course, some clear-headed people about in 1999. 

One such was my old buddy John Githongo, who was quoted somewhere as saying: "Religious superstition had inspired a ridiculous commission to investigate a ridiculous thing and write a ridiculous report."

Another of my commentator friends, Gitau Warigi, said: "The report is no more than narrow-minded prejudice from the mainstream churches, who sniff the hand of Satan in anything that does not fit into their religious worldview."

However, as one person's false prophet and cult leader seems to be another’s holiest of holies, my friends the police will really have their work cut out for them in this investigation, and I don’t envy them one little bit.

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