Kenyan church members warned against charming python

March 19, 2003

Church leaders in Kenya are warning their members not to put their faith in a 16-foot python that has attracted hundreds of visitors who believe that the snake possesses supernatural powers.

'People should not put their faith in this snake,' said Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi. 'They should understand it is a snake like any other. Believing its presence signifies a good omen is simply deceitful and satanic. We need to pray for these people.'

Some villagers, however, believe that the snake's appearance is a good omen portending an abundant harvest and success in school for the children. More than a decade ago, when another python in the region died, the community went into mourning and slaughtered animals to appease the spirits of the snake.

Some elders in the village credit the snake with playing a role in the country's elections last December when former president Daniel arap Moi surrendered power after ruling for 40 years. 'The people feel that the peaceful transition in Kenya's last election was part of that good omen,' said Tom Ayenda, a Luo elder.

Anglican and Roman Catholic church leaders are urging that the snake be moved to a park but residents have vowed to seek a court order to keep the python in the village. Some clergy are calling on theologians to study the phenomenon and advise church leaders on its significance, warning that it is contributing to confusion among the people.

Others are advising church leaders to regard the popular beliefs about the snake as positive. 'Should it be moved, a rebellion will erupt among the people,' said Prof. Gilbert Ogutu of the University of Nairobi. 'Its presence does not prevent anybody from adhering to their faith. In fact, it may symbolize that God has visited his people. Church leaders should visit the site and pray for the people.'

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