On Thursday, November 26, Kenyans would have an entire day to themselves to ‘pray and reflect’, as the announcement put it- in light of the papal visit to that country.
The government of the country has declared the day a national holiday, in light of the visit of the pope to Kenya.
“As we are privileged to be hosting His Holiness the Pope at the time, he will set the tone for the day”, State House Spokesperson Manoah Esipisu said in statement
Scheduled to arrive in Nariobi on Wednesday, this is the first leg in a three country tour that would include Uganda and the Central African Republic.
During his visit, the pope would meet President Uhuru Kenyatta, celebrate mass with Kenyans, as well as hold several other meetings. He is also scheduled to spend some time with ‘less fortunate members of society’
The new pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, or Pope Francis, is probably the most liberal pope in history. That’s not really saying much, but his positions on many issues are not as, strident, as most of his predecessors.
However, the fact remains that he heads the Roman Catholic Church- the most powerful church worldwide, with just over a billion followers. It is also one of the churches most responsible for a lot of evil in man’s history- and more importantly, a lot of evils in Africa right now!
The late Cristopher Hitchens once held a great Intelligence squared debate, together with Stephen Fry- against Archbishop Onaiyekan (of Abuja, Nigeria) and Ann Widdecombe. It was the single greatest debate annihilation I ever witnessed, and in it Hitchens laid bare all the evils of the Catholic Church, especially in Africa.
One particular bone of contention of his, was the fact that the Church kept sending missionaries to the continent most ravished by AIDS, to preach that contraception was a sin. East Africa has borne the brunt (and still does) of the world’s worst AIDS pandemic. Kenya is one of the worst hit nations in the world, with this 2013 report putting a full 6% of the population as living with the virus.
So Kenya should have little cause to be friends with Rome, but I bet they do not see it that way. But even putting this significant issue aside (the church has several other very harmful teachings on women’s reproductive rights), what justifies a national holiday for the visit of a political leader ( we all know the pope is more of a politician than a religious leader)
The Pope visits several countries worldwide as part of his duties, and we do not see holidays being thrown around for him. He was quite recently in the United States for a comprehensive visit, and it was not even a consideration on anyone’s mind that the pope is coming so they need a dang holiday!
The only country which did something similar recently was the Philippines, but that country has an over 80% Catholic population, and they breathe Catholicism in that country. Kenya, at best, has a fourth of the country as Catholics. Whilst I imagine a lot of government workers would rejoice at another holiday to add to their list; is it really worth the man hours lost, just to fête a world leader whose organisation has a frankly quite destructive approach to so many important issues in the world today?
I can think of no reason why this was given, except to somehow emphasise to the pope how important the visit is being taken. It is the worst kind of a** kissing, which in any other situation would be out of place, but in this one is quite disturbing.
I have deliberately steered clear of other inflammatory issues, such as the church’s complicity in, or otherwise toleration of, the Trans Atlantic slave trade, the s*x abuse scandal, and numerous other atrocities one can lay at their feet- because even without those, smooching up to the church is disturbing.
Half of Pope Francis’ job is gallivanting around the world, being feted by world leaders. You don’t hear country after country declaring public holidays because his Holiness is coming to town. Kenya’s decision is made from a part of the African mind that should belong to the past- the one that places too much importance on the religion that, as the pope proves, is not really ours.
The advent of the slave trade and the work of the missionaries went hand in hand. Since then, the Catholic Church has added more things to be sorry for. However, considering we all saw Uhuru Kenyatta during President Obama’s visit, he and the pope should get along just swell.
Every single time, we as a continent proves that we have a very flimsy handle on what the most important issues are.
PS: If you have a couple of hours to spare, you really want to watch this…