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Kimberly P. Yow

Kimberly P. Yow

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After Protests Turn Violent, Kenyan Churches Stand with Gen Z

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The Sunday after authorities killed people protesting a finance bill, many pastors call for justice.

Among the many people William Ruto thanked after winning Kenya’s 2022 presidential election were religious leaders, significant numbers of whom had enthusiastically campaigned for the career politician.

“I am sure their prayers will not be in vain,” Ruto said, considered by many to be the East African country’s first evangelical president.

Kenyan church leaders have more to pray about after the East African nation’s government violently cracked down on hundreds of young people protesting a finance bill last month, injuring more than 200 and killing at least 24.

Last Wednesday, Ruto withdrew the bill that would have raised taxes on milk, bread, diapers, and pesticides, as part of measures he had defended as necessary to address the country’s debts. But in a country of 58 million where more than 80 percent of residents are under age 35, the issue sent thousands of young people to the streets in 25 of Kenya’s 47 counties.

Their defiance in the face of tear gas, intimidation, and brutality did not go unnoticed by pastors and bishops.

“We do want to appreciate and applaud Gen Zers for their engagement with issues of national interest,” said Calisto Odede, the presiding bishop of CITAM (Christ Is the Answer Ministries), in a statement last week.

“On the one hand, they mobilized protests against unfair tax regimes in a legal manner that was apolitical and devoid of ethnic innuendoes,” said the Pentecostal denominational leader, “and on the other hand, they pricked the conscience of the church to purge the pulpits of our churches from undue influence by politics and politicians.”

Judging by the lack of church-related social media posts, few congregations wanted …

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