Monday, June 10, 2013

Kenya: Reinhard Bonnke Hosts Revival with Leader Accused of Crimes Against Humanity

This June, Reinhard Bonnke of Christ For All Nations (CFAN) traveled to Kenya to host the Great Jubilee Crusade in Nairobi's Uhuru Park. CFAN's accounts of the gathering included the usual claims of faith healing, with a shout-out to the Green Family (owners of Hobby Lobby) for sponsoring the event.

Among the high-profile attendees was Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, who spoke of God and national prosperity. "“I urged all Kenyans to submit to God and pray for His guidance in building a prosperous nation which all citizens can be proud of. The year of Jubilee is the year of forgiveness, reconciliation, and the year to open a new chapter as a nation," he said, according to Jamhuri Magazine.

Reinhard Bonnke's willingness to include Kenyatta in his revival gathering surprised me, given the charges against Kenyatta of an alleged role in post-election violence years ago. In late 2007 and early 2008, the re-election of Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki was disputed by challenger Raila Odinga. Amidst claims of vote-rigging, brutal violence erupted in the aftermath of the election, with scores of people dead, according to BBC News and the New York Times.

In 2011, the International Criminal Court (ICC) summoned Kenyatta and five other men for their reported role in Kenya's post-election violence. All six accepted the summons. Kenyatta denied any role in crimes against humanity and insisted that he would be vindicated at his ICC trial, reports BBC.

According to Human Rights Watch, Kenyatta and several other men stand accused of crimes against humanity, including murder, sexual violence, deportation or forcible transfer, and other inhumane acts. The prosecution alleges that the accused did so to attack perceived supporters of the Orange Democratic Movement and keep President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity in power. To carry out atrocities, the accused allegedly recruited the Mungiki, a Kenyan criminal organization with a history of police killings, ethnic strife, and extortion. A recent article in the Daily Nation states that Kenyatta's lawyers are trying to postpone his ICC trial until January 2014, a move that ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opposes.

The ICC trial involving Kenyatta has been marked by disturbing controversies. A February 2013 BBC News article said that dozens of potential witnesses for the case have reportedly gone missing, although these claims are difficult to independently verify. "Each one of them was involved in the post-election violence in Naivasha and Nakuru ... they all disappeared without trace," said Pail Muite, a lawyer representing the wives of several of the vanished men.

With these charges in mind, Kenyatta's comments about forgiveness at CFAN's Great Jubilee Crusade take a different tone. According to Standard Digital, Kenyatta prayed for forgiveness from anyone he had wronged.

"This is a year ... to forget all the wrong things that have happened to us and unite in God ... I am not bitter with anybody. And if there is anybody I have wronged, I pray that he or she may forgive me. If there is anyone who has wronged me, I also forgive them."

CFAN's account of Kenyatta speech was enthusiastic, with no mention of his pending ICC trial. With allegations of violence and an ICC trial hanging over Kenyatta, I wonder what Bonnke's reasoning was for including him in the Great Jubilee Crusade. Did he simply want a powerful, well-recognized leader to promote his Christian message? How does he feel about these serious allegations of crimes against humanity?

I realize that Kenyatta has not been convicted of crimes against humanity at this time, and that he is entitled to a fair ICC trial. Still, these allegations should give preachers such as Bonnke pause. If Bonnke and CFAN aren't careful, they may court controversy over the worshippers they keep company with.

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