My recent four years service as chaplain of Alliance High School has convinced me that religion is bent at destroying it.
The school was founded by an alliance of protestant missionaries, hence the name. For 88 years it has served all students exceptionally well irrespective of their religious affiliation. The many distinguished alumni all over the world is proof. In a significant way it has modelled how people can coexist despite conflicting religious interests.
Unfortunately, a well meaning but misguided Christian, ‘full of zeal but lacking knowledge’, made uncalled for disparaging remarks against Islam and created ill feeling between Christians and Muslims changing forever the religious landscape of Alliance High School.
Similar zealots have been working overtime to change the nature of the school.
One religion demands to manage the dining hall. Sausages and bacon cannot be served. Utensils should only be used for food approved by that religion. Meals must be prepared in the prescribed manner, by approved staff and served in accordance to the religious calendar.
Another religion wants to control the routine of the school. To determine days and times learning, exams and sports can be held; when the day starts, what can or cannot be done and when and how the school should worship.
Another desires to determine the running of the chapel by deciding who can lead, preach, or pray. Women should not be allowed near the front or even to stand in chapel. The traditionalists even claim that circumcised boys should not be instructed by women.
Others are determined to control medical care in the school. They forbid the school nurse from attending to students of their faith or taking them to hospital. A boy collapsed and the school had to call Western Kenya for instruction. The father insisted he would arrive the next day to attend to the situation according to his faith.
For the sake of its very deserving students the school has bent over backwards to accommodate as much as possible these sometime baffling demands.
Among many concessions the diet has been adjusted and meal times periodically change. Some women have been excused from chapel roles, different groupings have patrons, meet for fellowship and hold and attend rallies.
Yet like the proverbial camel that first begged for little space in a tent for his nose and eventually kicked out the owner, these zealots are demanding that the school run wholly according to all they want.
For the discerning, these demands lead to one conclusion: religion must be kept out of Alliance High School. Then this world renowned Kenyan school will cease to exist as we have known and experienced it, and with it all such public schools. That must be the agenda of the mastermind behind these increasing demands. If they win Kenya will lose a lot.
The zealots do not present model schools managed under their religious beliefs and practices and producing comparable results. Instead they target successful schools managed under different practices and demand to gamble with them.
We need practical and sensible religious leaders and lawyers who have read and understand Jesus’ words that when David and his companions were hungry they entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread – which was not religiously lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. He was not condemned but commended for his faith was constructive not destructive. Jesus offended zealots of his time by modelling faith that was prepared to do good even at the expense of religious censure instead of the approved version that was a heavy burden on people.
Thankfully the protestant founders and sponsors of Alliance have exercised praiseworthy self control, magnanimity and much benevolence towards their worthy competitors. If wisdom does not prevail the government and the courts will be forced to throw out religion from schools. Even Jesus was forced to whip out of the temple misguided zealots because they had made it a market place and den of robbers.
Rev Githinji is a former chaplain of Alliance High School now at St Paul’s University.