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Tearfund Advocacy case study

Christians and politics in action - Kenya

Background
Churches in Kenya have predominantly Running for election
seen politics as a dirty business. Kenya As this work has developed FASAMO has
lacks a Christian legacy of involvement in met with Christians who either are
politics and those Christians who have considering involvement in politics or are
entered Kenyan politics have often lost actually considering running for election in
their Christian distinctiveness and 2002. Whilst FOCUS has no experience of
credibility, leaving churches with no role being involved in politics, they immediately
models. Politicians tend to only be recognised the importance of encouraging
interested in the church when elections this passion in these students and
come along. Members of Parliament have graduates. In December 2001 the
often been wary of Christians and churches, interested people were brought together at a
as they have tended to use them for their conference.
own means rather than engaging positively
with politics. They discussed issues of how to fundraise
in a country where politicians often raise
A wind of change started to blow across the funds in questionable circumstances; and
country in 2000 when Kenya suffered a how to help candidates campaign in a
serious drought, the effects of which were culture where mobs are usually used for this
felt both by the poor and the middle purpose. Other questions were addressed,
classes. The economy fell to its lowest such as which party should Christians join
level since independence, which and how should Christians participate in
encouraged everyone, including the church, party politics and keep their Christian
to engage in the political system. distinctiveness. Originally FOCUS planned
to have only one such conference but the
Student involvement members keep coming back with more
FOCUS, a Christian student movement, questions and need to keep getting together
primarily trains students in evangelism and to discuss the issues and to support each
discipleship. As part of this they encourage other.
Christian students and graduates to get
involved in politics. They have established FOCUS know of 20 Christians from
FOCUS Associates Social Action different parties standing for election and
Mobilisation Office (FASAMO). The aim are hopeful that they will get 3-4 Christian
of FASAMO is to encourage Christians to MPs into office at the 2002 elections. Due
get involved in politics and the economy, to the Kenyan political legacy when
and to provide networks to facilitate this. Christians have become MPs in the past
and have often lost their Christian
They have set up 7 professional groups to distinctiveness FOCUS is forming networks
help bring a Christian distinctiveness in so that MPs will be able to consult on
areas of policy. These groups range from policy issues. The aim is to set up a
lawyers, the media, teachers and medics. Christian politicians professional group of
They have started to develop theological sitting MPs, making it easier for a
courses to develop students so that they are discussion on the Christian approach to
prepared before they graduate. politics in Kenya, and also leave a legacy
for the future.
One of the interesting highlights is training Kenya therefore aims to encourage honest
on media relations that FOCUS have and open politics, fundraising and voter
organised for these potential politicians, in registration in the months coming up to the
conjunction with Christian Journalists election, as well as peaceful voting on the
Fellowship. The purpose was to give them day of the election itself.
basic ideas on handling the media in public Together with FOCUS, CFJS are educating
and running media and political campaigns. the church about the need to vote (the
turnout is usually about 45%) and
Coalition for Peaceful Elections explaining the issues that are important to
During 2000, another Christian think about. The church is increasingly
organisation, Christians for a Just Society recognising the scale of the issues that need
(CFJS) created a public face for their work. to be addressed to help Kenya move
Previously they worked privately among forward, and their gradual involvement will
individuals already interested in politics. ensure that ‘politics’ is not just left to the
Working through churches around Kenya ‘politicians’!
through prayer, speaking, action and
networking, CFJS aim to bring a Christian Theology of Politics
influence into the political arena, through Despite these advances, churches in Kenya
encouraging upright people to stand for are often still reluctant to get involved in
election and encouraging all people to vote. politics as there as an informed theological
understanding of politics is rare. Some
Members of CFJS include lawyers, view politics as dirty and full of
businessmen and other professionals in compromises, such that Christians should
influential positions and through these steer well clear of it. Others think that the
contacts CFJS already had built a good church should not challenge the
reputation as an organisation with integrity. government because Romans chapter 13
Dennis Tongoi, Chair of CFJS, had built up says that we must ‘submit’. Still others
good contacts with business leaders through think the church should focus primarily on
his teaching on a Biblical approach to saving souls and that social and political
finance. involvement could lead the church astray to
follow the ‘social gospel’ or ‘prosperity
These business leaders were already teaching’.
working together to try and address issues
of corruption in Kenya, which adversely In response to this, CFJS recently started
affected their businesses. CFJS was the Fellowship of Christians in Politics and are
working with them and in 2001 together now planning a similar one for pastors to
they set up COPE Kenya (the Coalition for help them engage in the political process.
Peaceful Elections). Made up of civil
society, business and religious FOCUS also produce Bible study guides on
organisations, COPE Kenya aims to ensure different books of the Bible and on topics
the electoral code of conduct is enforced at such as ethnicity and good governance.
elections.
Key advocacy learning points
Forward Planning - Networking with many different groups
The elections are planned for the end of - Supporting those in positions of power
2002 and COPE Kenya started well over a - Educating the churches to get involved
year before this so that there was enough - Biblical basis for policy making
time to build a broad movement for change, - Getting involved in the political system
to develop clear policies and a strategy and
to build good relationships with politicians Matt Freer, May 2002
and those standing for elections. COPE matt.freer@tearfund.org