Catholics at the Diocese of Malindi in Kenya, Africa have taken the Blessed Sacrament for the first time in five years. Decades of contention between the local Oromo and Pokono communities led to Catholics – and people of other religions – in the diocese practicing witchcraft to protect themselves from their rivals. The conflict between Catholicism and pagan practice meant that Catholics did not receive the Eucharist at Mass. This has been changed by Father James Kinoti, who told ACI Africa how seeing his parishioners take Communion was the highlight of his priesthood: “It was a very fulfilling experience for me.”
Father Kinoti, 36, has served as a Fidei Donum Priest (a type of missionary) in the Diocese, which has a population of 539,000 inhabitants, of which 4% are Catholics, for the past five years. At his first Holy Mass in 2015, he noticed that he was the only person taking the Blessed Sacrament. “It was a very disturbing experience”, he said, adding that “he grew very sad and disturbed” as he witnessed the same incident every week.
He attributes the rejection of the Holy Communion to the witchcraft that is commonly practiced within the community. “There have been many massacres in the past and the people walk around with a lot of bitterness. Those who practice witchcraft still come to Church and they have told me that they are not ready to abandon these evil practices”, he said.
The church of St. Catherine of Alexandria in the Tarasaa Parish has many engaged parishioners, who are actively participants in the Holy Sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Marriage. The rejection of the Holy Communion at weekly Mass therefore further baffled Father Kinoti, who made it his mission to evangelise his congregation. It was last month, October, that Father Kinoti’s mission was at last successful.
The people of Kenya are majoritively Christian, with 70% identifying as such although only 28% of these are Roman Catholic. However the Diocese of Malindi, whilst a target for evangelisation in Kenya, is predominantly Muslim. Father Kinoti has baptised a number of Muslims into the Catholic church but notes that there is hostility between the two religions in the region: ““The locals don’t like it when one of their own converts to Catholicism. They want to remain a totally Muslim territory”.
Despite the obstacles with which he is confronted, Father Kinoti is determined to continue his work in the parish. “For a long time in Africa, we believed that the work of a missionary was to give, to construct Churches, Schools and Hospitals while ours was just to receive. Things are different now and it is upon us to build our own Church”, he says.
ACI Africa, founded last year, is a news service that provides up-to-date information on the Catholic Church throughout Africa “in order to increase the visibility of the Catholic Church in the public square and to help serve its mission”. In accord with its goal to provide Catholic news free of charge, ACI Africa is funded by donations from readers. Click here for more information.