I happened to tune in to the vice-presidential debate that aired on KBC and by the time it was done I was largely disappointed and somewhat angry. Throughout the debate I could see and feel the religious undertones at play. The debate was focused on Christianity and the church; all questions were centered on issues the Church has voiced and need a response to. As of now, the Church has not endorsed anyone for the presidency. The debate felt like an audition, like the Church wanted to see where the candidates stood on their issues so they can decide who to endorse. Kenya’s religious statistics stands at 83% Christians, 11.2% Muslims, 2.4% no religion, 1.7% indigenous religions, 1% Baha’i, 0.3% Buddhism and 2% other religion. Throughout the debate, I felt like only one religion was represented and the rest sidelined. This got me thinking about religion and its role in politics.

For the longest time, our religious leaders have taken it upon themselves to tell us who to vote for. They pick candidates for us based on the promises made to them. Politicians use religion in campaigns, taking campaigns right into the church or mosques. The constitution might define the two as different entities, but there seems to be no clear distinction.

Our constitution makes the distinction between religion and the state. They are two separate entities and should be respected as such. All religions are recognized and respected; all their issues are to be addressed on an individual basis. Our politicians seem to focus more on certain religions and ignore the rest. They focus on the ones that will bring them the most votes.

I really do not see what religion has to do with politics. The different ideas held by both are enough to make them complete opposites. The fact that our religious leaders are choosing to be involved in political games is enough to raise an eyebrow. How do the different religions get the right representation in politics? The promises made to one, cannot made to the other because they differ on the issues. For this reason, politicians have chosen to focus on the biggest religion in the country and sidelined the rest.
The biggest group benefiting from religion being politicized is the Christians. 83% of the country belongs to this religion. Their issues are discussed most, their opinion regarded as more important. The other religions are given a small mention somewhere along the line but their votes are considered inconsequential. The belief is that if you get the Christian vote, you get the whole country. If you are favoring one group to get votes, how then do you expect the others to believe you will be a fair leader? Why do you have to bring politics into a church and make the other religions also go into politics to get their issues addressed?

The religious leaders have played right into this and are now interfering in politics. They are telling people who to vote for, preaching against some politicians and showing where they stand. In a religious gathering, millions of people are present. Each with their own political affiliations. When the leaders choose a certain side, what message are they passing to the rest? Does it mean that if I am against the candidate you prefer I am no longer welcome in your church, temple or mosques? How do you decide who should be voted for, what criteria is used? Du select the leader based on promises made to your religion or the fact that he will help the whole country and all religions?

Religious leaders owe it to their congregations to lead them spiritually, advise them on good leadership without influencing who they choose. They should remain neutral without taking sides as one unit. Politics needs to be kept out of religion and vice versa. Politicizing religion needs to come to an end.