1.0 ACTIVITY SUMMARY
The Science and Religion Club of Kenya (RSCK) is an initiative of the Christian and Scientific Association (CSAK), a project led by Prof. Francis Muregi of Kenya by the Mount Kenya University funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation Inc. (TWCF). The Club is designed to create spaces for young people to interact and debate on questions about the relationship between religion and science, whether the two intersect and how they do if they intersect among others. It also aims at character moulding of students through giving them a sense of belonging and mentoring them in life. The main objectives of the club include to promote mutual understanding of science and religion and to champion constructive interaction of science and religion. Other objectives are to provide a platform for narrowing the gap in knowledge and attitude between science and religion and to promote synergetic interaction among science, religion and culture. The launch is part of a series of others launches in tertiary and higher education institutions across Kenya.
ACIP actively participated in this launch because it is important to ACIP for two reasons:
i) Some members of ACIP are members of CSAK and Eunice Kamaara is the Chair of
CSAK- Eldoret Chapter and deputy Chair of the Board of Management of CSAK ii) ACIP partners with RSCK because they have a common mission of promoting character values among young people. While ACIP deals with early adolescents in lower levels of education system in Kenya, the RSC of Kenya operates in tertiary and Higher Education levels. ACIP would refer their alumni joining tertiary and HE institutions to join RSCK and would have RSCK members mentor the ACIP Alumni
It is for these reasons that ACIP embraced this as one of its activities.
2.0 ACTIVITY PROCEEDINGS
The session began with tree planting to commemorate the day. After that, attendees convened in the School of Information Sciences for an interactive session marked by presentations from different speakers.
2.1 Participation in the 16 Days Activism
This is a global campaign between the 26th November and 10th December 2021 to prevent Violence Against Women and Gender Based Violence in general. To sensitize young people on current global activities and to motivate them to endeavour to always be part of the global community, Professor Emily Choge began the session by enlightening members on the 16 days of activism, a campaign on prevention of Violence Against Women (VAW) and Gender-based Violence (GBV). She led the team in understanding various forms of GBV and VAW and the importance of sharing with others in case one needs help. She also reminded the men present to break against the stigma of not reporting incidences of GBV especially if they were victims. Students and other members present gave their experiences on the same. The group then took part in a short breathing exercise, led by Perpetua Oogo, from the African Character Initiation
Programme (ACIP) to mark 16 days of rest, in line with the regional theme for 2021. The exercise involves relaxing, closing one’s eyes, breathing in slowly for long for as long as is possible, holding the breath then exhaling slowing. This is repeated 3 or 4 times to make one restful and relaxed. It was agreed that when one is annoyed or anxious, they should take a minute to do the breathing exercise before they talk or act in order to prevent violence and generally improve individual wellbeing.
2.2 Religion and Mental Health
Prof. Eunice Kamaara began by reminding members that the RSCK are part of the activities of the CSAK whose mission is to promote synergetic interaction between Religion and Science. She noted that there was need to guide youngsters in answering questions on science and religion as they grow so that they may know how to balance the two, one of the aims of the RSCK. On this day of the launch of the SRCK at Moi University, focus would be on the theme of mental health. It would therefore be important to understand the relationship between Mental Health and Religion before we hear more on Mental health. Prof. Kamaara made a short presentation on the relationship between religion and mental health terming them as ‘jealous spouses’: they heavily rely and borrow from each other although, both, if their relationship is not effectively managed, they may threaten the other. She noted that modern psychiatrists never want to publicly discuss the subject of religion and religious leaders never want to publicly mention the subject of mental health. Yet, the jealous relationship between the subjects of religion and mental health is very new – dating only the age of Enlightenment in the 1600s and much more in the 1900s. Otherwise in indigenous societies for example in Africa, religious leaders would be mental health experts; the first mental health institutions were monasteries; and religious ideas influenced the development and adoption of the Hippocratic Oath which guides healthcare providers. The real situation is that religion and mental health are closely related and will interact negatively or positively depending on what we promote. We have an obligation to moderate this relationship for synergy and consequently promote human wellbeing.
2.3 Mental Health – Key Note Speech
The highlight of the day was a keynote speech by, Dr. Saina, a consultant psychiatrist at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Eldoret. She highlighted various mental health illnesses, their causes and treatment options. She also spoke on how stigma against mental ill health escalates the problem and may lead to suicide. She also recognized that cultures and environment also lead to mental ill health and cause people to fail to address the issues. She gave an example of how men, according to the African culture, are hardened and grow up masking emotions and experiences which is detrimental to their mental health. Dr. Saina also noted that extreme anger is a sign of poor mental health and Gender Based Violence is a manifestation of a person’s inability to control their emotions, first and foremost, for their own wellbeing, and secondly, for the wellbeing of others. She encouraged the young persons present to be self-aware in order to understand when they have negative emotions and control them with simple exercises like the one of breathing given earlier.
Dr. Araka, also a consultant psychiatrist at the MTRH, picked up from where Dr. Saina left and discussed drug and substance abuse as a mental health issue. He explained that since they are chemical substances, drugs interfere with human mood and emotions leading to ill mental health. He dwelt on why young people engage in drug and substance abuse (especially peer pressure); what to do to avoid drug and substance abuse, and encouraged them to seek help to get support to stop drug abuse.
3.0 OFFICIAL LAUNCH
On behalf of the Project Leader of CSAK, Prof. Francis Muregi, the coordinators of CSAK from Mount Kenya University, Dan Gatungu and Joel Malala, made an impressive recap of the presentations and officially launched the Science and Religion Club of Kenya at Moi University (SRCK- Moi). They then closed the session by advising the students on life guarding principles and to request them to take charge of their Club. They ended with three commandments borrowed from the last lessons of the Holocaust:
1. Though shall not be a perpetrator of GBV and of Drug Abuse
2. Though shall not be a victim of GBV and of Drug Abuse
3. Though shall not be a bystander who takes no action against GBV and of Drug Abuse
3.0 LESSONS LEARNT
Key lessons learnt:
1. Religion and Science should work closely to create synergy for good mental health
2. Stigma associated with GBV and mental health causes a reluctance or failure of victims to seek help
3. Mental illness is an illness like any other. While many mental health conditions are chronic and may not be cured, they are effectively managed.
4. A person of good character does not perpetrate ill mental health and/or GBV; does everything possible to avoid being a victim of these; and is not an indifferent observer of these ills.
It was resolved that all participants present would strive not to perpetrate ill mental health and/or GBV; do everything possible to avoid being a victim of any of these; and will not be indifferent to these negative practices.
5.0 RECOMMENDATIONS AND REQUIRED ACTIONS
Rev. Tanui, the University Chaplain who was representing the Dean of Students explained that the Dean very much wanted to be at the meeting but she was held up by other University assignments. Rev. Tanui expressed the support of the office of the Dean of Students for the SRCK indicating that this was one of the most important clubs to be started in the University. He urged the members of the club to take charge of the club, and to be mindful of leadership transition so that the club can keep running smoothly even when other individuals leave. He also promised to work closely with the patron for the smooth running of the club and that the Office of the Dean of Students would support them with every resources within the means of the Office.
6.1 Launch Program
6.2 List of Participants
6.3 Launch Budget
Report written by:
Perpetua Oogo. 14/12/2021
Eunice Kamaara. 14/12/2021