Monday, 27 May 2013

My kidnapping ordeal – My dream

C.G.Jung Swiss psychologist, influential thinker and founder of analytical psychology in his book Dreams asks some very fundamental questions about dreams. Why does this particular person dream this particular thing? He must have his specific reason, otherwise there would be a breakdown in the law of causality.
A child's dream is different from an adult's, just as the dream of an educated man differs from that of an illiterate. There is something individual in the dream: it is in agreement with the psychological disposition of the subject. In what does this psychological disposition consist? It is itself the result of our psychic past. 

Our present mental state depends upon our history. In each person's past there are elements of different value which determine the psychic "constellation." The events which do not awaken any strong emotions have little influence on our thoughts or actions, whereas those which provoke strong emotion reactions are great importance for our subsequent psychological development.

Salvary presenting: A Christian approach to dream work, argues that today we live in a world of material wealth and technological convenience, with little emphasis placed on God's revelation through inner experiences such as dreams, images, and primary intuitions of spiritual truth. In a spirit of openness to certain eternal spiritual images and what they might evoke for us personally. He then goes ahead to explore this subject through the lives of Jacob, Daniel among others whose dreams shed a huge light into this subject.

We had just lit a born-fire with a small gang on the roadside just as the sun was starting to go down. We then started sharing about what the village life was and how each one had experienced our day. As usual cries of lament would be heard from different people but there were also songs of praise too of what God was doing in some people’s lives. Suddenly a car pulled over on the side of the road where we were. Dressed elegantly and strolling majestically came out two gentlemen who I knew on our Kenyan political scene.  

Some within the group thought it was now time to let the politicians know how distraught we were with the system. As they approached us  we all stood up to meet them. After exchanging  few greetings they went straight to business. They started asking the group questions about who owned what in the area. They spoke in a language that majority of my gang would not understand so they proposed me to be their spokes-person. As usual I was hesitant to address the politicians because I could not easily establish their motives. Feeling dissatisfied they asked me to accompany them into their waiting car. 

A close friend who was following me closely became suspicious and shouted to raised the alarm. By then one of them had already taken the driver seat and the other one was on left passenger’s seat while my left leg was inside the car just in time for me to sit down.

 Just before I could shout ,”please take the number plate of this car”, they felt cornered and attempted to  forcefully drag me into the car as the driver accelerated. Not letting go I managed to fight off their attempt to speed off with me and fell on the tarmac road  terribly injuring my right shoulder. Knowing how the police system worked I did not dare report the incident to them!! Well I am not nursing a sore shoulder at the minute because it was just but a DREAM!!!

Jung argues that dreams have meaning like everything else we do and I am left to wonder does this one have any meaning!!!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Who is God among the Kikuyu?

Many students of folklore and sociology have different and divergent perspectives towards the origin of the Supreme Being in Africa. This actually should drive us to ask ourselves, ‘Where did the Kikuyu get this knowledge?’ Some in this branch of human science have argued that Africans got this view probably from outside, a view that Mbiti refutes. He argues that if that were true, then we should be able to see African influence on where that thought came from as well as the process which would have to be two way.[1]

The Kikuyu people strongly believed that their God would respond to their cry whenever they called. In times of drought when they needed rain to fall and water their land they would make sacrifices which were always led by a council of elders. When people fell sick and needed healing, the name of God would be invoked and He would heal them. This would be done by sacrificing an animal under a (mugumo) fig tree. Blood would be shed and meat burnt in the hope that this would appease God.

The origin of the knowledge of God cannot be traced to a specific time and place even from all the people I talked to. Some would argue that the knowledge was passed down to them by their parents and through their communities, while others would say that God revealed Himself to people.

Most traditional African communities, if not all, had a monotheistic view of God. They believed that there was one beyond their human power who was responsible for what happened around them. He took charge over the spirits, human beings and virtually everything else that existed. The view that all things would not have existed if God had never willed it to be so was universally believed and accepted.

Names and attributes of kikuyu God

The God of the Kikuyu is always considered one and given male attributes but it was not the case for all the other African gods. The Yorubas have a goddess by the name Oshun who is believed to have brought about wealth, protection and fame and often praised as the Great Mother.[2]

a) Mwenye Nyaga (Owner of all brightness and beauty)

Kikuyu believed in God called Mwene-Nyaga (Possessor of the brightness). Ngai is the creator and owner of all things that exists. Gikuyu believed that God does not have father or mother or companion of any kind. God is also referred to as eternal, meaning that God was there from the beginning and will live forever. This Ngai lived in the sky but occasional descended on mount Kiri-nyaga (currently known as Mt. Kenya) as a temporal home where he could rest during his visits. According to Jomo Kenyatta the visits were carried out with a general aim of inspecting the world, blessing people and punishing those who were doing wrong.[3]

The mountain was highly revered; and this would be reflected whenever the people built their houses with doors that always faced the mountain. This idea of mountains having religious significance can also be traced among other African tribes. The Maasai's (nomadic pastoralists) who are thought to have originated from Sudan as well as The Luo's (who derived their livelihood from fishing) believed that their ancestors had come down from the mountain from the beginning of time.[4]

He was considered transcendent who stayed up in the heavens but at the same time was considered immanent as he temporary came down upon the mountain to see the affairs of the community and the corporate society.[5]

b) Ngai Mwene Inya Wothe (All power belonged to Him)

Ngai Mwenye Hinya Wothe was considered as the one who was all-powerful who held all things in place and manifested Himself through the physical nature of rain, rainbow, lightning, sun, moon and the created order.[6] His power was beyond measure. His power went beyond the created things and even spirits. The Kikuyu believed that all are powerless without Him and He would be called upon for His power, like when they faced a stronger enemy in war.

c) Kimenyi wa mothe (All-Knowing One)

According to Mbiti God knows everything and hears all things without limitations or exceptions.[7] The Kikuyu community attributed all knowledge to God and it was a common phrase to say, ‘no man knows like God Himself.’ People believed that if anything was to be known, then it had to be linked with the powerful knowledge of the All-knowing One.

d) Ithe witu- Our Father

Though God was considered transcendent, they believed that He occasionally visited them. They would consider Him one that is involved in what was going on in their lives. Mbiti says that beside the Africans knowing that the Father is remote he is also near.[8] Indeed this is true because I can remember visiting my great grandmother when I was a young boy. A frail and pretty old woman who at the time would always ask how my family was doing and if there was anything not right she would always say, ”Baba wa ndemi na thathi aromurathima.” (The Father of the old and the dead will sort it out). Mbiti says that many Africans visualise God as Father, both in terms of His position as the universal Creator and Provider. The idea of fatherhood of God, he argues, comes out in prayers, among people like Bambuti, Azande, Nuer, Kikuyu and others. The sense of God as the father, he continues, is needed and experienced most in times of need, such as danger, despair, sickness, sorrow, drought or calamity.[9]

Some attributes connected with Kikuyu Ngai (God)
i) God of justice- (Ngai wa kihoto)

According to Mbiti, the God of justice would be invoked in situations of judicial administration and when people were brought forth to take oaths, all which were activities of paramount importance in Kikuyu culture.[10] The Kikuyu believed strongly that Ngai was a just God. Every time anyone felt they were wronged and could not find justice anywhere else they would invoke such words. They believed that He never discriminated against anyone because of their social status, but treated all equally with fairness.

ii) They strongly believe in God of goodness. (Ngai Mwega)

Mbiti argues that God’s goodness was seen in his ability to avert bad things from taking place, as well as being able to take people out of them whenever they happened. As an agricultural community God was always thought as one who brought about good things, like rain. When people fell ill and were healed they would always attribute that to God who was always in the business of doing good. It is worth pointing out though that if bad things happened like outbreaks, death or catastrophes, they would be associated with the evil spirits and more often than not as signs of God’s punishment on a deviant community.[11]

iii) His Holiness (Ngai muthingu)

Performing rituals among the African communities was a responsibility solely bestowed on priests (athinjiri Ngai)(those that sacrifice for him). These were people who were considered to be people of high moral character who lived peacefully with all men. They were considered as a mediator between man and the Holy One. The criteria and the highly selective process used before a priest was ordained, as well as the type and colours of animals used for sacrifices, signified how the Kikuyu people viewed God.[12]

[1] Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy, 9

[2] Benjamin, African Religions,35

[3] Kenyatta, Facing Mount Kenya , 225

[4] Godfrey M,., Kenya: Identity of a Nation (Pretoria, South Africa: New Africa, 2007), 60

[5]Kenyatta, Facing Mount Kenya, 224

[6] Kenyatta, Facing Mount Kenya, 227

[7] Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy, 33

[8] Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy, 33

[9] Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy, 49

[10] Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy, 38

[11] Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy, 38

[12] Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy, 38

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

What happened to the voice of the Kenyan church?

Twenty three years ago Bishop Henry Okullu, an Anglican bishop and one of the most revered of clergymen in Kenya called for introduction of democracy and abolition of one party government. He did this at a time when Kenya was going through a very rough time because of dictatorship. Though some within the house of bishops did not agree with his criticism of the misrule orchestrated by the government of the day he did not mince words.  At times alone and isolated he always had a personal motto that kept him going, “One man with God majority.”

In his words, “…….Power corrupts even a person with the best of intentions in the world. Therefore, power must be limited by fairly acceptable checks and balances.” Today Kenya is thankful for the likes of Bishop Okullu who relentlessly stood their ground in opposing that which was evil. His criticism and critique was not to those in the places of political power only but to church as well for its failure to take it rightful place.

In his book Church and Politics in East Africa he writes the following about the church. “If the church in East Africa is to make its voice effectively heard in the spheres of public life of these nations, then it must speak the language of Africa............The Church's must speak to the people of East Africa here and now in their varied forms and degrees of development. The church must speak to the peasant, the illiterate, the elite, the young, the old, the rich businessman in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Kampala and to the poor folk living in the urban slums and rural areas. It must speak to the university lecturer and to the illiterate street cleaner, to the ruler and to the ruled. It must speak to him in today's language, his today's situation and his today's aspiration.”

Though these words were published 30 years ago, they are as useful now as they were then. Today we continue to witness a society that is ravaged by variety of evil; corruption at its epitome, insecurity, grabbing of public resources, lack of proper governance, degradation of good morals just to mention a few. Where is the church as all these issues are happening? Growing up I used to hear of strong men who were never intimidated in saying what they thought was right and some we all know paid dearly with their lives. 

As we continue to yearn for good governance my prayer is that East African Church will lead from the front. Thumbs up to Uncle Zac (Bishop Zac Niringiye) in Uganda for your decision to not only speak against the evils being committed by the government of Uganda but also your step towards taking proper actions. 

The role of the Church is not only to speak to us on issues of spirituality but every other areas of life. Is it possible for the Church to speak to us about farming methods, better water harvesting techniques, how to run our businesses among other things not commonly associated with it? The answer is yes and we all long to hear this voice- loud and clear!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Freedom of worship in Kenya should be regulated

Kenyan constitution which arguably is one of the best in Africa gives fundamental right for every citizen to express themselves in a way that is unique to them. Section 32 of that Constitution guarantees the freedom of Conscience, Religion, Belief and Opinion. It says in parts, “every person has the right, either 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”….. “A person shall not be compelled to act, or engage in any act, that is contrary to the person’s belief or religion.”

Looking at the state of Christianity in Kenya today, this bill of rights calls for some close scrutiny and re-thinking at least from the majority of sober Christians. Every hour, whether in our audio or visual broadcasting services we are constantly bombarded with ‘Christian messages’ that we can instantly overturn our predicaments by increasing our faith and particularly those involving finances. Those driving this theory argues that, we are poor because we lack faith and therefore increasing it will instantly kick away our pain and sorrow and in their place we get to enjoy good health accompanied by physical wealth.

This theory does not end there; they continue to argue that this faith can not bear fruits on its own.  It has to be accompanied with action for as the scriptures declares-faith without action is dead. What then is the action required to activate these blessings? Well, again they make reference to the scriptures that-give and it shall come back to you in full measure shaken together and running over, give and when you give, give to the Lord. The giving they talk about is financial and the lord receiving it is the speaker. No one is supposed to question its use whatsoever and if you do it is believed miseries will accompany you the rest of your life. In fact you are considered the enemy of the Cross.

Personally having grown up in a situation where we lived hand to mouth I see why such a gospel sounds so palatable. For instance, when we prayed the Lord’s Prayer we literally believed everything in it. When we prayed that God give us this day our daily bread, we meant that if God was not coming through for us we were doomed forever! A mother with so many hungry children with only meager resources will also believe such a gospel without questioning.  Healing that come by faith and planting of ‘good seeds’ will sound as music to a helpless family with a member who is terribly or terminally ill.

The gospel in question here is the Prosperity Gospel which thrives in situations where people are vulnerable. How then do we curb the rise of this crooked view of the Good News? Is there any way we could engineer its permanent downfall?  This is problematic from the outset because it would call for some sort of regulation to bring order to a chaotic situation. The third question is who would bring this regulation? Can the Church regulate itself and if not who can? 

I do not know whether I should be stirring the still waters but how can we continue to sit and watch as people take advantage of the weak brothers and sisters because of their vulnerability. These preachers continue to amass wealth hour by hour by preaching wrong gospel. This is why I am proposing amendments which should exclusively apply to adherents of Christian religion. My amendments to this section are an additional clause which reads (5) Though this is a fundamental right for everyone it does not cover those who propagate prosperity gospel in the Christian faith. 

Surely how else can we ensure that people who are passionate and eagerly waiting to hear from God get what is the true Gospel. Lastly I want to petition the Government of Kenya to consider financing training for more Christian workers who will teach authentically what the Holy Book says. This will not only make sure there is peace among her constituents which is in the interest of the state but also the rich are stopped from becoming richer at the expense of the poor! It is such a serious issue that it calls for constitutional change, however a change in constitution would spell several other implications.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Food as a tool for manipulation

In my study of the Bible, it does seem like every book therein contains some sort of reference to food and in some cases offering governing rules to its cultivation, preparation and consumption. The Holy Book starts with God promising Adam (Gen 1:29) (ESV)…” Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” The eschatological message of the Book of Revelation wraps up the Good News with a promise of a final feast. It does seem therefore right to conclude that food is essential, so essential that God places it at the heart of His redemptive story of the human race.

Throughout the scriptures, food has been used as a teaching tool in demonstrating God’s love to us as well as how we should treat those around us by showing them mercy and kindness. However food has in some cases being used as a tool for manipulation. This manipulation is rooted in pride and selfishness which results to viewing others as objects.  By limiting freedom through control manipulation invades individual’s dignity. Scriptures offers such examples of people and situations and one being Esau who lost his birthright by being forced to trade it with a plate of food.

According to UN International Human Development indicators of 2012, my beloved country Kenya ranked amongst 40 poorest countries in the world. We recorded life expectancy at birth of 57.7 years with a multidimensional poverty index of 0.229%. These among many other indices showed that we performed poorly which has been the trend for many years. In simple terms we are poor health-wise and we are unable to feed our own people as compared to other nations. This is the case to all other sub-Saharan African countries.

African Human Development Report of the same year in Nairobi addressing the subject: Towards a food secure future cited that food security must be at the centre of Africa’s development.  It went on to say that Sub-Saharan Africa cannot sustain its present economic resurgence unless it eliminates the hunger that affects nearly a quarter of its people. Whether our African leaders are listening on this or not is another case altogether.

Outside Africa, the African child is in most cases depicted as either mistreated or isolated and in other cases hungry and suffering from malnutrition.  As true as these case are it ends up depriving the African people of their heritage and dignity. By feeding Africans they are then expected to sing the unending songs of gratitude.
In less than a month the whole world will be looking upon the G8 leaders gathering in County Fermanagh to see whether they will enact any policy that will help alleviate poverty in the developing world. Leaders from the developing world will also be out with their ‘begging bowls’ to see who will come to our aid. As good as this help is we MUST as African people put measures that will ensure that we are able to produce enough food for ourselves, by doing so we will not only be securing our own future but also gaining our long-desired independence.   The continual dependence of the African countries on our developed partners to provide food among other needs perpetuate the culture of dependence and corruption, above that it deprives our human dignity.

At the heart of Jesus message was His rebuke to the rich and powerful for exploiting the poor. He openly and publicly criticised the rich and unjust systems against the vulnerable.  Nations and multinational companies have their hands spilling with blood on this particular matter and as Christians we MUST speak for the helpless.