By Caroline Boyani Oyaro
“Haki yetu, haki yetu” is the common notion we are used to, but how should we react when the same rights we shed blood over are violated? To what extent should we draw the line when it comes to rights and privileges bestowed upon Kenyans?
Recently, we have witnessed the shock of a lifetime at Shakahola, at the farm of the famous man of God, Evangelist Mackenzie. Among the questions, troubling many is if it’s a case of ignorance and negligence or misinformed religion.
The past month of April was Easter and Ramadhan festivities preceded by prayers and fasting of the Catholic and Muslim faithful. Mombasa being one of the counties with the majority of Muslims, I observed how they went about their business, from fasting to almsgiving. I also observed Christians fasting.
“Expectant women, young children, and the sick are excused from fasting; for the expectant mothers and weaning mothers, they are to fast on a later date,” Sultan, a Muslim faithful I asked about Muslim fasting practices explained to me.
For comparison purposes, I asked Betty, a Catholic faithful, about Catholic fasting practices. “The sick, young children and weaning mothers don’t have to fast, and for the rest of us, it’s a personal decision to fast or not.” But here comes a religious extremist in sheep’s clothing accused of forcing his flock to starve, and from the postpartum, some were killed through strangulation- an irony attesting to the good shepherd.
Religion is a weapon revolutionized against the masses walking blindly to their execution. The Constitution of Kenya, under Chapter Four, Article 32, gives us the right- individually or in community with others- in public or in private- to manifest any religion or belief through worship, practice, teaching or observance, including observance of a day of worship. In this case, the right has been abused.
The Shakahola tragedy is almost the same as terrorism, where a few greedy and chaotic people mislead the youths into a suicide bombing in the name of religion. Nevertheless, how naive can we be to the point of selling property and denying children the right to education? This is insanity, to say the least. Government officials should be answerable as investigations continue to determine if Mackenzie is accountable for the massacre.
We have come a long way to get most of these rights such as the two-thirds gender rule that brought rise to equity among genders and freedoms such as those of expression. It will be unfortunate if the blood that was shed went to waste as we violate these rights. This issue is an international violation of human rights. If the people responsible are not brought to justice, then it will be wrong in the eyes of the Lord. The perpetrators should serve as an example to anyone who harbours the same ideas of manipulating and committing such crimes in the name of religion.
As citizens, either religious or not, we should be careful. We have the minds to critically think and know where to draw the line. Let us not be a people led by greed and ignorance. Let us be selective on teachings and shun those that threaten our lives. Even as investigations are going on, we can only hope for justice- and if not, the press and human rights organizations will continue to fight until justice prevails. I believe beyond the battle of denominations exists the indivisible, omnipresent and eternal benediction that guides us in peace, knowledge as well as wisdom.
The government should regulate and make it compulsory for religious leaders to hold a degree in theology. They should also check if worship centres are in regulation with ethics and natural law. The village heads and chiefs should be vigilant and report suspicious activities.