What you need to know:
- Presidential candidates must publicly embrace a strong faith if they want to win voters.
- Religious leaders played a significant role in the transition from authoritarian to democratic rule.
We cannot divorce religion from politics. Religion plays an influential part in contemporary politics, and the correlation between the two is ever changing. Statecraft cannot be detached from the religious views of its people that affect leaders and lawmakers.
Presidential candidates must publicly embrace a strong faith if they want to win voters. If he ran for US President today, Thomas Jefferson would not be elected. An ardent critic of organised religion, the opposition exploited this, telling Christians not to vote for him. Hillary Clinton, a lifelong Methodist, struck conversations with the faithful during her campaign in 2015, which won her tremendous support. Donald Trump believed churches should not lose their tax-exempt status for engaging in political activity.
At the height of the struggle against Apartheid, Archbishop Desmond Tutu confessed that he was confused about which Bible people who said religion and politics do not mix read. As general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, he led the churches in the liberation struggle, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. After Nelson Mandela left prison in 1990, the two men led negotiations to create a multi-racial, democratic South Africa.
In the 1980s and ’90s, Africa experienced widespread calls for democratisation, part of a wider package of demands for improved economic and political, including human, rights. Religious leaders played a significant role in the transition from authoritarian to democratic rule.
The 2022 Uhuru succession politics has split top church leaders and that is politics in itself. As Canadian politician and judge Thomas Chandler Haliburton said, “Never discuss religion or politics with those who hold opinions opposite to yours, especially if the two subjects are joined together and, more so, if the people in the room do not agree; they are subjects that heat in handling until they burn your fingers.”
Dr Kapkiai is a lecturer at Kisii University. [email protected]