KNA For many years giving to the poor was considered a religious duty but in the recent past nothing has become more exploitative to the poor than religion.
The Kwa Rhonda informal settlement area in Nakuru town has more churches than even the vast Rongai Constituency, which is home to large farms owned by the former British settlers and the most affluent families in the country. Rongai has less than a quarter of churches compared to the former.
A psychologist based in the town, Edward Maina said the high number of churches at Kwa Rhonda was a religious mindset that was replicated across all poor slums of the world, because it is much easier to exploit the poor than the rich.
However, he noted that religiosity has served the higher classes well through constant supply of cheap labour and that was the major reason governments tend to keep distance between the state and religion, irrespective of the obvious criminal elements, who take advantage of the poor.
Also, Maina noted that religion, when it does not rear its ugly head of radicalization that leads to violence, was supported by the state because it moulds people into docile and passive workers, who are unfortunately exploited by the same dubious clergy.
The Kwa Rhonda slums, which was a former vast farm owned by a British woman known as Ms Rhonda had no church until she left and it was demarcated into smaller plots.
A resident of the area, Cecilia Mokeira said in the early 1970s and 80s they only had three churches, Catholic, Adventist and African Inland churches. However, she said things changed swiftly when Evangelical or Dubai churches (as they are referred to at the slum) arrived in the country.
“Daily there was a new church being opened and they mainly rented former Dukas and then moved to plots. At first, the noise was too much, but now we are used to their dramas,” said Mokeira.
However, she said despite the high numbers, with some sharing a fence they work in harmony, and their presence has brought the residents a lot of goods in terms of clothes, food and best of all affordable schools, that are better than public ones.
A resident who owns a church, Pastor Jackcton Otieno said the high number of churches was because the residents are religious few churches cannot accommodate them. He justified the existence of his church as a need for the people from his rural home who felt discriminated against in other churches and wanted to sing in their Dholuo language because it touches the heart than when singing in Kiswahili or English.
Otieno said: “Poor people need God more than anybody else since even the Bible states that it’s almost impossible for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven, than a camel passing through the eye of a needle.”
But, one notable thing about Pastor Otieno was that he owns a plot and drives a relatively good car, which he claims belongs to the church but is registered in his name. The number of people who kept on greeting him during the interview with KNA was a confirmation that he was a respected resident of the area.
Dr David Thuruthi a renowned educationist in the county said the slum was an interesting place since it wasn’t just the high number of churches but also, it has the highest number of witchdoctors because all the adverts on the electricity posts in the town, identify their residence as Kwa Rhonda.
He said it wasn’t a coincidence that the churches and witchdoctors co-exist harmoniously and side by side since they all promote the same superstitious beliefs of the life after.
“Churches promote a better life after the struggles of earthly lives, and the witchdoctors consult the ghosts who live in another utopian world to assist those suffering in this world,’’ says Dr Thuruthi.
He concluded that witchcraft and religion was the same bedfellows, albeit, given a different name and supported the pastors who surcharge people for prayers “Since talking to the other world cannot be an easy task, and if it was, everybody could definitely consult the deity, when things become tough.”
On his part, an Adventist Pastor, Moffat Mose said: “the world today, as it has always been, has plenty of gullible people, and church ministers and politicians, almost do the same thing but in different platforms. Hence various denominations and political parties with different ideologies.”
Mose however commended the government for allowing churches to do whatever they deem fit, since any form of interference was likely to cause unnecessary backlash from wananchi, who tend to esteem their religious leaders, irrespective of what they do.