Despicable religious bigotry

29 Mar

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By Wanjala Wafula

 
 

Father Joseph Ngugi Kariuki is a cherished cleric in Kenya venerated for his perpetual and hothead reprimand of government policies and practices. He has over the years stood out as a determined human rights activist and a firm believer in justice. He merited my approbation fifteen years ago while I was still a student leader at Daystar University.  I have since moderated in over four functions presided over by him. For me, Kariuki has always been a voice of rationale, coherence and impartiality. However, his impish flare-ups about women and girls last Sunday have taken those of us who have known him by surprise. The sentiments are grime, rearward, insulting and imprudent yet they help paint a clear picture of a besieged patriarchal system.

Here are his words “There will be no woman in heaven because they were never in Gods original creation plan as God said all was well even before they were created. In my view women are a postscript designed to meet a specific need (he laughs).  We are the heads and they are our tails and no one should blame a man if he disciplines a woman because this is a solemn duty bestowed upon men by God. They are not endowed with any leadership qualities and this constitution is fundamentally an abomination against God as it seeks to entrust power into the hands of those God wants to be strictly governed. They were created only to mollify and help men and take care of our children. They are there to be seen and not to be heard and that is why they do not hold any leadership positions in this church”.

Regrettable as it is, there are millions of men like Kariuki around the world who are keen to hold on every straw to safeguard the unwarranted power structures provided by the crestfallen patriarchy and aggressively enforced by pessimistic masculinity and religious chauvinism. It’s a struggle to remain the ‘heads’ at the cost of their own progression and at the detriment of the entire society. They are steadfast in referring to ‘God’ so as to stifle any constructive engagement on the same. They belong to the ancient times exemplified by male supremacy over women while we represent an epoch characterized by complementary coexistence. We reject to be identified as men just because we are socialized to load it over women and girls. We are not men just because we stand in the way of women and girls.  

This is our rejoinder to the outrageous affirmations from a man of the “cloth” in the name of Kariuki. We the empowered men of the universe affirm that, we look like the diverse peoples of the world and carry our diverse beliefs and religions, cultures, physical abilities, and sexual and gender identities. We are indigenous peoples, immigrants and we are fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, partners and lovers, husbands and wives. We belief in a common destiny shaped by what we can jointly achieve as human beings and not as men against women

We are united by our strong outrage at the inequality that still plagues the lives of women and girls, and the self-destructive demands we put on boys and men. But even more so, what unites us is a powerful sense of hope, expectation, and possibility for we have seen the capacity of men and boys to change, to care, to cherish, to love passionately, and to work for justice for all. We are outraged  by the pandemic of violence women face at the hands of some men, by the relegation of women to second class status, and the continued domination by men of our economies, of our politics, of our social and cultural institutions, in far too many of our home, we also know that among women there are those who face  even worse because of their social class, their religion, their language, their physical differences, their ancestry, their sexual orientation, or simply where they live.

The Likes of Kariuki should know that there are deep costs to boys and men from the ways our societies have defined men’s power and raised boys to be men. Boys deny humanity in search of an armor-plated masculinity. Yong men and boys are sacrificed as cannon fodder in war for those men of political, economic, and religious power who demand conquest and domination at any cost. Many men cause terrible harm to themselves because they deny their own needs for physical and mental care or lack services when they are in need.

Too many men continue to agonize because our male-dominated world is not only one of power of men over women, but of some groups of men over others. Too many men, like too many women, live in terrible poverty, in degradation, or are forced to do body-or soul-destroying work to put food on the table. Too many men carry the deep scars of trying to live up to the impossible demands of manhood and find terrible solace in risk-taking, violence, self-destruction or the drink and drugs sold to make a profit for others. Too many men experience violence at the hands of other men.

 

We invite Father Kariuki and others like him to belief in the importance of engaging men and boys in fostering a world founded on parity and respect. We see the emergence of organizations and campaigns that are directly involving hundreds of thousands, millions of men in almost every country on the planet and skeptics better watch this space. We hear men and boys speaking out against violence, practicing safer sex, and supporting women’s and girls’ reproductive rights. We see men caring, loving, and nurturing for other men and for women. We see a totally different picture from that painted by some egoistic clerics.

We are now seeing men who are enduring the daily challenges of looking after babies and children, and delight in their capacity to be nurturers. We are seeing many men caring for the planet and rejecting conquering nature just as men once conquered women. We know how critical it is that institutions traditionally controlled by men reshape their policies and priorities to support gender equality and the well-being of women, children, and men. And we know that a critical part of that is to reshape the world of men and boys, the beliefs of men and boys, and the lives of men and boys.

The author is a Programs Director of The Coexist Initiative which a not for profit synergy of men and boys community-based organizations committed to eliminating all forms of Gender based violence, foster HIV prevention and AIDS management in Kenya. Visit http://www.coexistkenya.com

 

 

The author is a Programs Director of The Coexist Initiative which a not for profit synergy of men and boys community-based organizations committed to eliminating all forms of Gender based violence, foster HIV prevention and AIDS management in Kenya. Visit http://www.coexistkenya.com

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