The social teaching of the Church is one of the most educative documents of the Church on how we should live our faith and with others. In fact, if we want to unite and heal our nation, we need to apply the social teaching of the Church. It teaches that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. There are ten principles of the Catholic social teaching namely: Human dignity, Community and the common good, Rights and responsibilities, Option for the poor and the vulnerable, Participation and subsidiarity, Dignity of work and the Rights of workers, Stewardship of creation and Solidarity.
Admittedly, if well understood and practised, the social teaching of the Church can be a springboard for a stable nation where the human dignity is respected and promoted. Specifically, we are called to solidarity with our fellow human beings. The teaching on solidarity provides a robust and useful understanding of the social obligations of individuals, communities, institutions and nations. Human beings must learn to live with one another and should not exclude others.
We need to strengthen our cultural values and teach our children values found in our tradition. This means that unless we reclaim our cultural identity, we shall continue to be divided as Kenyans.
One of the core aspirations of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 is national cohesion in a multi-ethnic society. Sadly, ethnicity continues to be used as a tool to divide individuals, communities and to fan violence. One’s ethnic background becomes a factor to determine their access to public resources and the manner they interact with their neighbours and other citizens.
This year we purpose to address some of the issues affecting our cohesiveness as a people. In so doing, we could have a breakthrough in bringing about healing, unity and renewal of our country.
In the first week, we shall discuss the pertinent and important theme of Environmental Conservation and Protection. The Church believes that we must, by all means, protect our environment. Today, many people are suffering from lifestyle diseases and specifically what they are eating and how they are treating the environment. This has led many people to spend a lot of resources in medical attention to the extent that they affect the general economy of families. On care for our common home, Pope Francis reminds us that ‘’we should care for this world which is the home we human beings share in common with all other creatures.
Theenvironment is not something outside us: we are an integral part of that world. It means care for each and every being and for the generations to come.’’
Family Values, which we shall discuss in the second week, have suffered immensely through the introduction of alien values that tend to disintegrate families. As Christians we must claim our family values if we want to build our society in a better way. In this regard, all institutions – family, Church, school and society at large – must pay their role.
Corruption will be our topic for the third week. Corruption is a dishonest or fraudulent conduct. It is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. Corruption threatens development, ethical values and justice, it destabilises our society, endangers the rule of law, delays our development, contributes to poor building quality and layers of additional costs. Corruption continues to manifest in all sectors of social, economic and political life despite the progressive legal framework which, if properly implemented, would curb the vice.
Socio-Political Inclusion will be our topic for the fourth week. The challenges that the nation is facing include divisions that have been fanned by cut-throat political competition between different coalitions and actors. These divisions are supported by the growing gap between the rich and the poor due to rising cost of living and rampant unemployment, especially among the youth. We should never allow ourselves to exclude anybody from our society. Such exclusion would be arbitrary and is against our Christian calling as well as the spirit of the Constitution.
Since Independence, impunity seems to have infected our country. Impunity is the prevention of punishing an offender of an injurious action because of the person’s social status or connectedness. In the fifth week we shall deal with Respect for the Rule of Law. Laws are there to ensure that all live in harmony, if well followed, they reduce conflict in society. Christians are obliged to obey laws, except those that go against God’s commandments. We cannot have unity and cohesion if some people will be exempted from following the laws of the land.
As we seek to address the issues of unity and healing, let us do it in the spirit of Lent. Lent is a time of prayer, fasting and alms giving. These discussions will take root if there is actual prayer and fasting. Let us give our country another chance in these coming days by allowing the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation to take root in our hearts.
Wishing all a spiritually filled and fruitful Lenten period.
Rt. Rev. John Oballa Owaa CHAIRMAN
KCCB – CATHOLIC JUSTICE AND PEACE COMMISSION