Reverend Philip Anyolo.
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Holy Family Basilica: Why we blocked anti-tax protesters

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Collins Koganda Jack holding a Kenyan flag inside Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi on June 23, 2024. Inset Metropolitan Archbishop of Nairobi, Reverend Philip Anyolo.  

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

The Holy Family Basilica has defended its role in barring demonstrators from taking refuge on its grounds during last week's anti-tax protests in Nairobi.

Metropolitan Archbishop of Nairobi, Reverend Philip Anyolo, pointed out that their proximity to Parliament buildings led the police to barricade the road leading to the church.

He noted that they had no control over the police deployment, as the heavy presence of security officers meant that even church staff were denied access to the facility.
“At no point did the church make arrangements with the police for its gates to be closed,” He said.

He pointed out that the church will always endeavour to be a sanctuary for all people of God, remaining open to the public.

Read: Gen Z revolt: How young activists planned, executed well-oiled protests machine

“We regret any misunderstanding following the current concerns about the Finance Bill 2024, and we will continue to strive to be a sanctuary of worship,” he said.

Bishop Anyolo has said that the church stands with the protesters who are exercising their rights and that the police should guarantee the safety of protesters and allow the first-aid team to access those who might be injured.

“We acknowledge the shared concerns among Kenyans and fully support their right to a peaceful protest,” he said.

The church noted that the compound hosts a school and that its personnel always prioritise the safety of learners, as well as being responsible for ensuring a duty of care for the young ones.

More suffering
Associated Christian Churches in Kenya (ACCK) has also cautioned that the passage of Finance Bill, 2024 in its current form will oppress and cause more suffering to Kenyans.

Instead, they called on President William Ruto to address corruption within the government institutions and the wastage of public resources.

Meanwhile, Catholic bishops have cautioned the government against living in denial amidst the mounting pressure to reject the controversial Bill.

Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops chairman Archbishop Maurice Muhatia raised concerns that the street protests being spearheaded by Gen Z could spiral and create political instability.

While underlining the importance of paying taxes, the clergy faulted Finance Bill, 2024 for failing to capture the needs and aspirations of the majority of Kenyans.

"The issues raised are not only affecting Gen Z but also other Kenyans.

"As KCCB, we gave our views in writing. We have serious concerns and we think it should not pass in its current state," he said Sunday while presiding over a mass at Our Lady Queen of Peace Muhoroni Parish.

Read: Angry and unafraid: When Gen Z storm country’s streets
The Archbishop further warned security agents against using excessive force on peaceful demonstrators exercising their rights to demonstrate.

Citing Article 37 of the Constitution, he pointed out that Kenyans have a right to engage in peaceful and unarmed protest, demonstrate, picket and petition.
However, he said, the streets are not the best place for our young people to be.
“President Ruto should get the wisdom to get them off the streets and take their concerns into account,” he said.

Other than the controversial Finance Bill, Archbishop Muhatia called on the top leadership of the country to look into the welfare of the young generation who make up the majority of the country’s population.

While calling on the young protestors to maintain their course, he urged them not to fall into the temptation of engaging in illegality.

“Don't allow yourselves to be infiltrated by people who have ulterior motives and want to cause havoc,” he said.

Archbishop Muhatia however, discouraged both politicians and the youth from turning churches into podiums of making political statements.

“Don’t heckle your leaders in churches. Two wrongs don't make it right,” he pleaded.

As the Catholic Church, we have called on leaders of parishes to make sure that places of worship are respected.

“This does not mean that we are blocking anyone from attending our services but let’s respect the sanctity of the pulpit,” he said.

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