- It is high time we accept as a society that this right has been left unchecked for far too long and with disastrous outcomes.
- President William Ruto has heard the peoples’ cry and formed a Commission of Inquiry to delve into this Shakahola tragedy.
The constitution is apt that every person has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion. However given the now infamous reports of suspected cultic practices in the Kenyan landscape, this right of religion should be curtailed.
The name Shakahola now bears a dark, mysterious ring to it. It is alleged that Pastor Paul Mackenzie, the founder of Good News International Church, is responsible for the deaths of more 100 persons, who either died from starvation or strangulation, and that they were all buried in his 800-acre Shakahola farm.
Somewhere in the Shakahola melee, the name Pastor Ezekiel pops up and Kenyans are informed that this leader of the New Life Church Centre was also allegedly connected to the Shakahola massacre.
Before we even grab our seats, reports once again indicate that yet another church, Rainbow Faith Ministries Church, has been closed down by the authorities for suspected cultic teaching and practices. Absolutely mind-boggling.
The question to ask then is this: Is there any panacea to this current state of affairs?
Article 24 of the Grundnorm provides that any right or fundamental freedom may be limited to the extent that the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society. Some rights are non-derogable meaning they may not be limited but thankfully, the right to freedom of religion is not one of them.
It is high time we accept as a society that this right has been left unchecked for far too long and with disastrous outcomes. President William Ruto has heard the peoples’ cry and formed a Commission of Inquiry to delve into this Shakahola tragedy.
Whether this step is legal or not is a question for the courts to answer, given that the de facto opposition leader Raila Odinga has challenged its validity through a petition to the courts.
The President has also formed a task force to look into the framework governing religious institutions. The aim of such a measure, I believe, would be to develop an encompassing formula capable of effectively dealing with runaway churches.
It is unfortunate that the religious sector has largely been a free-for-all with any charismatic person with a microphone able to set up their own church.
In the days of old, medicine, law and being a clergyman were highly revered career paths. Tables have since turned with doctors now lacking employment and law as a career does not seem to pay as much as being a clergyman.
As things currently stand, one can never go wrong with a church. So what wild measures may need to be undertaken to ensure that those actually called to lead the flock end up doing so?
There should be a board of some sort that shall be responsible for a database of all the churches in Kenya. Each leader of such a church or religious outfit should also hold an annual licence to preach and pass their knowledge to the flock. Of course before acquiring a licence to preach, there should be an overall exam to be undertaken to determine if the future clergyman/woman is qualified to preach.
Not surprisingly, these proposals raise their own challenges.
For example, will the overall exam test the Catholic, Protestant, or Seventh Day Adventist, etc teachings? Will there be a different exam for each denomination? Also, may it be considered discriminatory to group the exam under the aforesaid denominations keeping in mind the many Christian denominations under the sun?
These cursory ideas are not perfect but the truth of the matter is something has to be done, and fast. We as a society need to get on top of this thing before it continues to run amok.
Traditionally, any comments and challenges to the current set up of the religious sector has often led to chastisement but we need to be brave enough to realise that something is wrong and that it needs fixing.
The good book tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1 that “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.”
Practising one’s faith through various channels is commendable but not working, not seeking medical services or not going to school all in the name of seeking God, is frowned upon as elucidated in the aforesaid verse.
There is a time for everything. A time to pray, a time to toil, and a time to learn. As believers or otherwise, it is about time we act accordingly.
Legal officer, Radio Africa Group