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Tra coraggio e complicità – Between courage and complicity

While Kenya faces many daunting challenges, religious leaders have contributed little towards finding solution, or at least provoking a national debate. The Christian faith has become a recipe book for miracles and prosperity, an escape route and a substitute for a real commitment to transform society.

In an article recently published in The Nation, the main Kenyan newspaper, father Gabriel Dolan lamented the absence of the religious leaders from public live.

He wrote: A month after the Westgate massacre […] it is good to look at the performance of our religious leaders, too, and critically evaluate whether they showed any inspiration or leadership when the nation was in turmoil. Muslim leaders led the rush to condemn the terrorists attack as well as to distance themselves from the attackers who originally were reported as singling out non-Muslims for execution.
Religious leaders are very vocal at condemning violence, and soon press conferences of an inter-religious nature were convened wherever media houses have bureaus. Religious leaders are also pretty good at leading prayers, and so three days later they all assembled in their full regalia at KICC
(kenyatta Internationa Conference Centre, the most prestigious congress centre in Nairobi) to lead the ecumenical prayers and to share the podium with the political and diplomatic class. And there their contribution ended.
There was no public interrogation by the Islamic community on their failure to prevent the militarisation of many of their youth. Our religious leaders can only contribute with prayers and condemnation but fail to lead national debates on the creation of a new public ethic.
So they mostly make news when they condemn condoms, books and gays, an approach that can hardly appeal to youth looking for guidance.”

Father Dolan also recalled that when the Kenya Parliament decided to vote in favour of withdrawing from the ICC, only Archbishop Zaccheus Okoth of Kisumu supported the idea of retaining the country as a member state and favouring the completion of the ongoing cases. He was ignored, suggesting that the other Catholic Bishops prefer to toe the government line, in silent obedience. The same is true for the Muslim leaders.
A counter-proof that what father Dolan wrote is true, is the fact that his words did not ignite any public debate. Two weeks have passed and nothing has happened. Particularly worrying is the tension between Christina and Muslim. While extremists are at work to fuel the fire, little it is done by religious leaders to defuse it.
Only Fr Wilybard Lagho, Vicar General of the Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa, has issued a very lucid press statement explaining there is nothing intrinsic to Islam or Christianity that can be identified as the source of intolerance except when religion is misused by leaders for political aims.
Yet in the past there have been courageous religious leaders, some even risked their lives, and they were killed, for having criticised President Moi. Today, however, “keep a low profile, do not risk of saying words that can put you in trouble” seem to be the choice of religious leaders of all faiths.
Father Dolan concluded his article with a bitter sentence: “Whoever disturbs is killed, Archbishop Romero said decades ago; not much chance of that happening these days.”

Fedeli in preghiera sul luogo dell’attacco terroristico al Westgate Mall. Faithful in prayer at Westgate Mall,

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