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Address social justice issues to keep Kenyans safe from religious cults


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Address social justice issues to keep Kenyans safe from religious cults


Good News International Church Pastor Paul Mackenzie when addressing Nation.Africa in Kilifi County on March 24, 2023. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG

For the past two weeks or so, we have held our breath as shocking revelations emerge of the inconceivable cultic activities at Shakahola village, Kilifi County under the leadership of the self-styled spiritual leader Paul Makenzie, hoping that we have heard the last of this horror.

You can’t help but wonder about the final moments of his victims, innocent children dying of hunger “in the care” of their parents.

From the inception of Christianity, charlatans like Mackenzie were already at work. Since these masqueraders have been around for a while, why do people still fall for their schemes?

Cults prey on people’s fears and lusts (poverty, sickness, pain or love, power, money, etc). Cults hinge on mind control by being vague, and sensational, borrowing from forms of organised religion for credibility, promoting austerity and unreasonable sacrifice, and are centred around a charismatic leader claiming strange spiritual experiences that exude a messianic appeal.

Faith in God and His church has come under fire enforcing a confirmation bias that faith is a catalyst for mental health disorders. Not so.

I am more inclined toward Rabbi Jonathan Henry Sacks’ school of thought: “Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean. And we need them both, the way we need the two hemispheres of the brain.”

Social injustice propagated through economic, cultural, educational, political, and gender hindrances creates vicious cycles of generational poverty.

Research suggests when a person is living in poverty, the limbic system is constantly sending fear and stress messages to the prefrontal cortex, which overloads its ability to solve problems, set goals, and complete tasks efficiently.

This constant bombardment leaves little bandwidth for rational thinking. Such people are now susceptible to manipulation and abuse on every level including religious extremism.

On regulation, I believe it is important to have a basic framework in which religious organisations operate. But it is important to note that laws and ethics cannot transform someone’s heart because faith is internal work.

The internalisation of true faith in God is supposed to create a virtuous cycle, not a vicious one. I applaud the formation of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry but we will be chasing our tails if there are no concerted efforts by our leaders to end social injustice on the different levels that will improve the lives of our people and free their minds from manipulation.

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