THE MUNGIKI MOVEMENT: A PASTORAL RESPONSE
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The emergence of the Mungilci movement and other religious movements in Kenya which are oriented towards traditional beliefs and practices is a startling phenomenon. The history of religious development demonstrates that cults are born in relationship to the secular conditions. For that reason, the context which triggers their origin is worth investigation. The new religious movements are interesting, not because of their doctrines, but because of the societal factors that give rise to the phenomenon and the group dynamics that exist within such organization.' Founders of these new religious movements (NRMs) argue that there is something wrong with the world. This is because recent advances in technology and growing social, political and ecological awareness have sharpened people's perception of the contemporary global crises. Science and materialism are perceived to have suffocated and stifled both the human spirit and attempts to experience the divine. Organized religions such as Christianity and Islam appear to have overregulated and possibly distorted the innate human desire for genuine spirituality or religiosity. By and large, the society seems to be undergoing a transformation. A new world is being born which is apprehensive about the future, thus giving value to traditional cultural practices. We may rightly assert that religious movements based on traditional beliefs and practices are the "signs of African Renaissance."2 After a century of colonization and alienation of Africa by the Western world coupled by endemic G. D. CHRYSSIDES, Exploring New Religions, I. 2 Cf. J. N.K. MUGA/vIBI, African Christian Theology, 107. socio-political and economic problems, the Africans seem to be reasserting their identity in the process of re-thinking their solutions. The emergence of the cults such as the Mungilci is a sign of the time that cannot be underrated. Revealed is an inter-play between Africa and the Western world, inspired by the need to restore the cultural dignity. It expresses and demands answers from the Western world, answers which must be political, social and religious. Governments, the Church and other bodies have the task of formulating the terms on which the answer must be couched.3 Just like the biblical prophets arose to address social, political and economic distress in Israel, it is probable that, the new religious awakening is a prophetic sign calling for freedom and liberation of the displaced, poor and oppressed in the slums who are members of such religious groups. This prophetic call was embraced by African scholars such as Ngugi Wa Thiong'o and Wole Soyinka, among others in the middle of the 20th century. Incidentally, these distinguished writers were educated and influenced greatly by Christianity. Indeed, most of their writings are a reaction to Christianity. However, they ascertain that the Western influence is the genesis of the problems in Africa. For this reason, they urge Africans to restore their identity by going back to their traditional roots. Although there is deep awareness of the African identity, it is really difficult for the Africans to completely severe links with the Western world. Subsequently, the resurgence of expression of African Traditional Religion is a conglomeration of beliefs from diverse religious sources. Such sources are re-interpreted in favor of the African context which offers an alternative spirituality 3 Cf. V. LANTERNARL The Religion of the Oppressed, vii. 2 from the traditional religion. Traditional Christian theology, which is essentially a quest for religious truth, could assume that Mungiki and many other similar groups, has little claim to any serious theological debate. However, the influence of the Mungiki and other related movements is a challenge. In fact, it is a force to reckon with especially, on the pastoral level. The emergence of Mungiki has brought to the fore challenges that cannot be ignored amidst many people, especially the youth, who have found it meaningful and satisfying. As a matter of fact, it calls for a clear, reflective and critical Christian response. The response should be devoid of emotional outbursts, inaccurate representations and wild accusations.4 Even if the movement ceases to exist, its influence will survive among many people. This makes it an important subject of study. This work surveys the emergence of Mungiki and the challenge it poses to Christianity. The work is geared towards contributing to the ongoing debate on the relationship between cultic movements and the challenges they pose to Christianity.