FORGIVENESS………

Lord, when you come in Your glory, do not remember only the men of good, but remember too the men of evil.
 
And on the Day of Judgement, do not remember only the acts of cruelty, inhumanity and violence that they carried out,
but remember too the fruits that they produced in us because of what they did to us.
Remember the patience, courage, brotherly love, humility, generosity of spirit and faithfulness
that our executioners awoke in our souls.
 
And then, Lord, may those fruits be used to save the souls of those men of evil.

 

The above prayer from Paulo Coelho’s blog was found among the personal belongings of a jew who died in a concentration camp.

A beautiful prayer it is but  one i find very difficult to pray.

I hope you do not have a hard time as i did accepting and forgiving the evil men have done and  that we continue to do.

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MY IDEA OF HEAVEN AS A KENYAN

I have never gone to heaven ,neither do I know anyone who has seen the so-called pearly gates but I sometimes imagine I have an idea.

Definitely not a place where we play harps all day or drink fruit juice from morning till night but it may have a huge library that has all the books that have ever been published,has a wine bar that serves French champagne and Italian wines and a coffee shop that sells French pastries and Kenyan coffee.

I may probably be labelled a heretic for this but I like to think it’s filled with good things,why else would we all be happy to heading there anyway?

I believe heaven should be a place where everyone feels they belong and where it is not necessary to convince people it was worth  waiting a lifetime to get there.

Now Brand Kenya has a very nice advert on Kenya that gives you the warm fuzzy feeling and you want to go ohhhhhh that so sweet and patriotic.

But we forget that branding the country has got more to do with how its citizens feel about themselves,their leaders and how the national psyche at the time is.

It needs to be based on a value system that describes us as a whole as 42 tribes,brown,chocolate,mahogany,dark-skinned,white,asian   in all our different hues

Right now if you ask me ,it is a bad time to be Kenyan.With fuel prices on the rise,food prices have quickly followed suit and with a rag-tag government that is more concerned with next years elections than with how things are right NOW,we need grace to survive the day-to-day struggles of putting food on the table.

And all these problems aren’t because Kenya is a bad place or has horrible citizens who love breaking the law.

It just because things sometimes do not work and we seem to be averse to following rules and the letter of the law for the most part.

We have some of the best sights and sounds   in the world,South Africa literally fights with us for tourists,a lot of people in the developed world have a  Kenyan Safari on their bucket list.

We produce the worlds finest coffee and tea and we have some of the most enterprising people on earth.You can be sure you will find a Kenyan in Iceland doing his thing or selling nyama choma(Kenyan version of roast meat)

 Kenya has many great things but it also has many more things that are wrong.

From the glaring inequalities that have fuelled social crimes to the blatant disregard for the law by every one of us ,we seem to be  turning this little piece of heaven on earth into a veritable hell hole.

With our skewed political interests, we  forget that the haven Kenya can be will only be achieved if we all work together,and that it is not the work of politicians to turn it into a haven of peace for citizens.

It is everyone’s responsibility.

It is going to require that we throw away the tribal tinted glasses with which we seek to view fellow Kenyans.

It could start with us taking more  care of our environment,and now even more so because Wangari  Maathai our Nobel laureate  is gone.

A few weeks back I had the privilege of getting a bird’s-eye view of Nandi Hills forest and Kakamega forest and was left in utter shock.

Not because of the amount of forest cover in the country, but because smack in the middle of the forests there were empty patches of land where trees had clearly been cut down.

And there was more,there were spiffs of smoke finding their way into the clear  afternoon sky from various spots in the forests,a clear and sure sign of charcoal burners.

Kenya needs to be the little haven where every Kenyan regardless of tribe,color,creed or belief feels welcome and at home.

Look at the South Africans with their Rainbow Nation,they have figured out a sense of what being South African is all about.

It does not matter whether you can name your ancestors  3 generations back or you just acquired citizenship,are visiting for a short while or just passing by en route to somewhere ,Kenya should be home to everyone who sets foot on our soil.

There need to be values that we as Kenyans can identify with,it could be hard work,welcoming or enterprising we need to pick what defines us.

It does no good for national psyche for Somalia militants to come and kidnap tourists right under our security organs noses,we need to improve on our security.We need to feel safe at “home”.

And let us  not forget leadership plays a big part in all this business of branding.After all Brand Kenya is funded using tax payers money,we need to see our top leaders standing head ans shoulders above the definition of what it  means to be Kenyan,once we agree on what that is.

 Kenya can be a heaven down here,if we all believe in it.After all what legacy is our generation going to leave for the next one,a wrangling,quarrelsome,drama loving country- I hope not.

Let us  make it possible.

CIVIC EDUCATION:From the Pulpits

Hosea 4:6 My people perish for lack of knowledge.

Every weekend on either Saturday or Sunday any Kenyan TV station worth its salt will have a televangelist extolling the virtues of tithing,performing miracles or fasting.Most of these are geared towards making the regants feel good about their lives because let us face it, life is very hard for the average Kenyan.With rising fuel and food prices a little spiritual solace goes a long way towards mitigating the effects of the harsh economic times we are living in.

In August of this year it will be exactly one year since we passed the new constitution and it will be about another year before we have to face another general election.Politicians being the smart men and women they are have already seen the growing ignorance of the new constitution most Kenyans have and have launched into the usual games they play.Clerics on the other hand have been busy battling the adornment of earrings by certain constitutional office holders or their marital statuses .

Granted that most of the Christian clergy were against the passing of the document in the first place it is disappointing that they have failed to  recognize the immense good it holds for most of the Kenyan citizenry.Despite the problems they had with the clauses on marriage and right to life it remains a great document, a huge leap from the one we had before.So it is still a puzzle that most of them have chosen to remain mum on its other contents.

Now as usual we have been waiting for civic education to start ,seeing that we will be having county governments and devolution is going to bring a whole new meaning to governance it only makes sense for the government to educate its people on how this is going to benefit them.This has not happened and if we do not do something we will see such confusion come next election we will wonder what hit us.The government is battling so many wars on other fronts that am sure carrying out civic education in hte counties is the last thing on its mind.

Maybe the church despite its lack of support for the new constitution should start educating its congregants on what the new constitution means for them.It needs to be telling peole that voting with their heads and not their tribes or stomachs will see them have a better life than they have right now.It  will ensure that health care is available for all even for the ones who do not get the miracle cures.It will ensure that a family does not starve itself to death, in the name of tithing and that medicines are available in all government hospitals and that we do not have to rely on anointed oil.

It will also mean that instead of praying for our youth to surrender the guns and ammunition they have been using to rob and maim peole we will have them gainfully employed because we have elected leaders who have job creation in m ind.It will also mean that we do not have to have harambees(fundraisers) for everything from weddings to settling of medical bills because our economy will be growing thanks to forward thinking leaders.

Am sure the clergy will also be happy if they have to preside over fewer funeral services because fewer Kenyans will be dying on our roads as the rule of law will be respected.Husbands will honor their wives and grant them divorces instead of bludgeoning them to death,hospitals will be better equipped because corruption will be a thing of the past thanks to respect of public property.Justice will be swift as judgments will not be delayed and our prisons will not be overpopulated with petty offenders and other innocent or not so innocent people waiting for their day in court.What this means is that there will be fewer pastoral visits  to prisons for the clergy and they can concentrate more on preaching the good news and nourishing the spiritual life of the faithful.

I would like to hear every Church,Mosque,Temple and Synagogue in the country extolling the virtues and the good that is in the new constitution.We cannot always wait for the government to do everything,the government need partners such as yourselves to be able to attain the Vision 2030 which we are all being called to be a part of.It needs foot soldiers and being leaders of faith in a country that is zealously religious you can help shape and  build a heaven down here.

Why the Catholic Church needs to face the abuse scandals from the pulpit.

In my life having gone through Catholic schools i met priests who were great people and lived by their vows but then there were also those who broke all the rules and gave priesthood a bad name.The Catholic church for a while now has been reeling under the accusations of sexual abuse of minors  by some of its priests in Europe and North America.The scandals began receiving public attention in the 1980’s but the church hierarchy as it is structured in the affected dioceses never reported the matter of these priests but just transferred them to other locations.Wikipedia provides a detailed article on the scandals here.

Kenya has got its own share of these scandals when we have had Father Kizito Sesana’s name dragged into the mud over his misconduct with boys and young men and reports of the battles he has been fighting here and here.
Both times there has been no concrete evidence found to charge him and he has fought of his accusers by saying that they are more interested in the millions involved in the projects he runs through Koinoinia Kenya.

The hierarchy of the Catholic church in Kenya has chosen to keep quiet over the scandals.Their stand is similar to the position taken by the Vatican when the sex scandal emerged,they were swept under the carpet with the fervent prayer sent to heaven that they would just disappear,but they did not.Over the years the allegations against some of its priests have increased and the young victims of these priests who are now grown men have chosen to speak up.

When Father Kizito used to write articles in the Sunday Nation and were serialized under the title Fr Kizito’s dairy,  i read them  voraciously and they were great and inspired my faith then in many ways.When the first scandal hit the press in 2009 i wanted to cry for this man who had inspired me not only with his writing but who i admired for the noble vocation he had taken.

It is very easy to hate on religious people who fall of the high pedestal we have placed them on and the reason for this is because a majority of people look up to them because they represent an institution that is meant to uphold morality in the society.That is why when Fr Kizito’s alleged scandals first hit the headlines,a lot of furore and debate ensued on whether his accusers were legitimate or they were after the millions in his projects.

After following the scandals the Vatican has been battling over alleged abuse by the men of the cloth i think it is time that the church in Kenya investigated itself.It is time the church hierarchy asked itself,what if there are priests abusing their high office here ,how do we handle it?

Reuters had an article on how the scandals have affected the church in Germany with thousands leaving the church and it can be read here. Much of this has been caused by the dismal handling of the matter by church which has not been stemmed by the apology offered by the Pope which elicited mixed reactions.An article by the New York Times on the apology to Irish Catholics can be read here .

Maybe it is time the church stopped the fire fighting approach it has taken to reports of abuse by its clergy.The systemic issuing of apologies that is directed at only the affected countries needs to stop,instead the church needs to make its stand on sexual abuse by men of the cloth known,it needs to publicly state that it will not be condoned or tolerated and that the abusers will face the full force of the law.

Sermons made  by priests from all the catholic church pulpits need to remind the faithful that the church does not and will not hide sex abuse scandals.The faithful who give of their time,money and energy in church activities need to hear that the church will not hide the crimes or wish them away but will make sure the perpetrators who break the law and their victims have their day in court.

Each of the one billion Catholic faithful who make up at least 50%of the global Christian population need to hear that the church will act and is protecting them from the wolves who come adorned in priestly robes.They need to hear that the church is listening to the voices and the cries of those who have been abused by these men .The church needs to shout from the pulpit that sexual misconduct of its priests cannot be condoned ,every catholic from the remotest village church in Turkana to the Basilicas in Rome needs to hear that.Only by doing so will the church get some of its credibility back.

PRAYERS FOR SALE AND OTHER UNCHRIST LIKE BEHAVIOUR

Being the hard working Kenyan that i am i woke up very early Saturday morning wondering what i would write about because this past week i had writers block for a couple of days .I stared at the ceiling,re-read the weeks papers,started reading a book by Coelho again,watched CNN then finally decided to check what was on the local channels,maybe my inspiration would come from there.

Most of them had nothing interesting,it was either cartoons or they were playing music then i turned to the national broadcaster (Kenya Broadcasting Corporation)KBC and i found this preacher.It was a televangelist with a shiny black suit,the quintessential pastoral voice that almost all Kenyan pastors have and he was asking people watching to send money to a number that was posted on the screen for prayers.Viewers were told any amount would suffice but he was smart enough to start the figure off from 200 Kenya shillings going upwards.There was even a promise that God would definitely answer the prayers,as if he had privileged access to the good lord’s ears.In simple words the pastor was selling prayers!

When Martin Luther launched the Protestant reform in 1517 the selling of indulgences by the Catholic Church was one of the contentious points.It seems some of these televangelists and shepherds of the flock have conveniently forgotten this part of history and are repeating the same mistakes that forever split Christianity.

One of my favorite online publications is the religious section of the Huffington post,everything from whether hell exists to what Jesus would have thought about the Palestine conflict are discussed here.Muslim writers,Buddhists,Catholic priests,writers all discuss everything and anything under the sun. The most comments however are usually reserved for the Christian articles and the most active commentators are either atheists or agnostics who for one reason or another have been disillusioned by Christianity.

Why the disillusionment?In Kenya i maybe in the minority but i have begun to question the direction the church is taking by selling prayers,how do you sell something that for all its intents and purposes is meant to be sacred?We seem to have lost the reverence for the divine and have brazenly commercialized religion and it is no surprise ,just visit any Kenyan town,residential estate or village and there is likely to be a church promising all manner of things from its megaphones with no care whatsoever for its neighbors.It has become such serious business much that in Kenya i bet the number of churches and sects that get registered is equal to that of new business.Just look at any of the local channels over the weekend and you have an offering of at least 10 televangelist all promising wealth,health and success if you support them by “planting a seed”which is an euphemism for sending money to support their spread of the gospel.

Two weeks ago there was an article written in the Sunday Nation asking whether you would buy your pastor a car which you can read here.Personally i would not because i have seen first hand the kind of mismanagement and apparent lack of disregard for common sense in some fundraisers churches have.Every so often a church will be seeking to build a bigger,grander structure than its neighbors,putting up a multi purpose hall,buying its pastors a bigger and better car ,yet most of its congregation is weighed down by debt and the rising inflation.

This blatant request for money is what led me to ask myself what Jesus would do if he was sited on the couch with me that day,watching this preacher asking for money just so he could pray for them?What would he also make of the recent happenings in the church of a certain famous Kenyan pastor whose followers chased the driver of a bulldozer in Nairobi city with stones because their church which is built illegally on council land was being brought down-that was not very Christ like behavior.Ho about the numerous fights over leadership positions in some churches that we have witnessed over the years or the apparent mismanagement of either church money or tax payers money by people who on Sundays turn into Bible thumping Christians shouting Hallelujah and speaking in tongues?

Listening even to what passes for sermons nowadays all i hear are promises of success ,good health,bigger houses and cars and Christs core message has been lost in all the din the pastors are making.How about being kinder,helping out the homeless,feeding the hungry,not taking bribes,honest work and visiting those in prison or hospitals who have no one to come and see them?who is telling Christians about that?

Mahatma Gandhi is famous for saying that “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”