Joseph Mbatia became the second bishop of Nyahururu last March. Being from the local diocesan clergy, he has an intimate knowledge of the diocese and of the Kikuyu, the larger ethnic group of the region. I met him at a meeting with catechists where he spoke about the new evangelization and the importance of continuing the process of inculturation so that Christians and others may realize the depth of Jesus’ message.
Bishop, in your talk you claimed that the Gospel has not yet changed the Kikuyu. What did you mean by that?
The Kikuyu are still clinging to their culture. On the one hand, this is good, because most traditional values are good. On the other hand; it means that the Gospel has not permeated their life to the point of inspiring deep changes there where tradition is not in line with the Gospel. They have not being transformed and changed. We still need to proclaim the Gospel, the message of salvation so that it may change them and they may embrace the Gospel values, instead of adopting cultural values that are contrary to the Gospel.
You mentioned the importance of evangelizing society, economy, and politics. What can be really done?
We need to inform the whole society that the resources are meant for all, not for an elite. They are there for people to share. God has given resources for all, not for a selected group. What is there is meant for all so that in sharing people may grow, develop together, and live in peace and solidarity with one another. This touches the way we manage resources at local and national level, and even beyond. The process of evangelization could be considered completed only when society is evangelized. If the economy and policy making are left out, there is still much to do.
Many Kikuyus have accepted the Gospel, yet there are still many who do not know about Christ in your diocese. What is the Church doing to reach out to these people?
We do work in first evangelization; there are priests and other Church personnel working there. They visit communities, do charitable works and proclaim the Word. These two aspects go hand in hand. If we want to reach people, we need to propose a teaching, the Gospel, but also provide food to those in need, clothes for those who do not have. We need to build schools, which are the engine of development. Once people have enough learning they will be able to see the reality of human dignity and embrace that human dignity and the Gospel values. Here in the diocese we have a group of dedicated to serving the marginalized of society, it is called Saint Martin, It is doing a wonderful job, it has changed so many people.
Their approach helps communities to grow. They preach with their action that in solidarity we can grow, united we can help the less fortunate in society, through community we can change the situations and help those who are less privileged.
The Diocese of Nyahururu is a young reality. Did you develop some aspects that could be of interest to other local Churches?
I think that our Church is geared to self support. We have areas where the Christian community is supporting itself. People get together and are able to meet their pastoral needs.
This aspect can be borrowed by other Churches, especially those who are in first evangelization, and those who still struggle to meet their pastoral needs. There are communities where the believers do not commit themselves fully to support the Church. Yet this is possible whenever the Christian participate fully in the life of the Church. By sharing there is always enough to meet the vital needs of a community.