Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Of Holy Noise And Kenyan Churches

Picture this. You’ve had a long week and by Saturday you’re looking forward to a quiet time at home for the entire weekend either alone, or with your family or friends. You buy everything you’ll need for those two days as you get ready to wallow in blissful peace and quiet until Monday morning when you get up to go back to work thoroughly relaxed.

But someone else has other plans for your weekend. A church that recently sprouted less than 100 meters away from your estate has been assembling a huge public address system in preparation for an afternoon crusade that will run into an overnight prayer vigil. You’ve had a lovely late lunch and just when you’re settling in for that movie you borrowed, the serene silence of the neighborhood is shattered by the now familiar ‘Testing Testing One Two Three Hallelujah’. The word Hallelujah is supposed to invoke positive feelings for the good Lord but in this case a curse escapes your lips. Your problem is not the content of their message though. You also acknowledge the power of God in your life and appreciate that after all there is such a thing as freedom of worship and speech. The problem is the volume of the amplified speakers. The problem is that they’re forcing you and the whole neighborhood to listen to them – what they want, when they want and at the volume they want.

And so there ends your dreams for a peaceful weekend. They must be worshiping in shifts because they are at it all afternoon, all night and after a brief lull, they’re back Sunday morning around 10.00 am. On Wednesday there is the weekly prayer meeting, Tuesday there is choir practice and some other day in the week there is Piano and other instruments practice – all accompanied by amplified singing and praying.

This is a scenario that is becoming all too common in Kenya with churches sprouting all over and inching increasingly closer to residential areas. Pubs, company promotions and other non Christian street noisemakers are material for a whole nother post. As much as there are laws to guard the freedom of speech in Kenya, there seems to be none to guard residents against amplified noise or music that is unreasonably loud, raucous, jarring or disturbing to persons other than those for whom it is intended. Take for example a small tin walled church of 30X40 feet. A single loud speaker or indeed none at all, is enough to address the maximum number of congregants that can be accommodated in there. So if the same church mounts loud speakers on the roof, it is no longer for the intended audience but for the neighbors. But is the church sure the neighbors want to listen in the first place? The unfortunate bit is that a church more than any other noisemaker can always play the holy card. How can you complain while the Lord said to spread his holy word? You must be so unholy bla bla bla.

I feel we need a law on this or if we have one it needs to be enforced. Amplified sound of any kind should only be allowed at certain times and should only be audible upto a certain distance – say 250 feet. Some countries have done their bit to protect their citizens against amplified noise. This has seen preachers arrested under these laws, thrown into jail and their equipment confiscated. In 1996 for example, American Christian Enterprises and SOS Ministries sued the city of San Fransisco for discrimination citing that the police and some listeners disliked what they said. But the US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their claims with Judge Ronald Gould saying in his ruling that from the evidence provided, the people were concerned about unacceptable noise levels and not with the content of the message.

Have a quiet day.

23 Comments:

31337 said...

i thought noise pollution was noise pollution holy or perceptually holy notwithstanding.

i have been subjected to the impossible decibels whilst i was visiting my friend who lives across the fence to one tin "church" and the instant they turned on the equipment it became entirely too loud to even hold a conversation!

MainaT said...

Na waislamu?
These guys are up at 5 calling the faithful to prayers. And they expect the hole neighbourhood to do the same.

Mcheku said...

Honey, why dont you complain to your local authority or something? The law empowers them to prohibit noises and vibrations that maybe a source of danger, discomfort or annoyance in the neighbourhood. Tell them you are going deaf.

The thing is I dont know if they enforce such things, knowing where you live I know what you are talking about kwanza those mosque noises all the time aii...they are tiring!! Kenyans rarely complain about anything so its seen as kawaida and therefore the authorities never act on anything.

SisBigBones said...

I can't even live near a busy road, so I can't imagine what it must be like to live with that noise. And I remember just how loud they can be. You'd think they're at Uhuru park. And those P.A systems aren't even quality, so the noise that screeches from them is annoying as hell. Pole sana

Wanjiku Unlimited said...

Sisbigbones Hi. You're so right about the quality of the P.A systems. Kwanza when they're poor quality and then they're loud its something else all together.

Nice shoes sister hehehehe.

Wanjiku Unlimited said...

Mainat Hi. Thanks for your visit. I see where you are coming from. I live in Mombasa and there are very many mosques. But somehow I think the Muslim Mwadhini who calls at 5 is different and here's why. His is usually very brief and regular and they don't use those screeching speaker systems with huge speakers. They don’t play drums or loud instruments and they will rarely holler for a whole day or night. So with time you get used to them and actually sleep right through the Mwadhini call.

Some people even joke that they are a good alarm system for the morning.

acolyte said...

Pole sana, this is an experience from Kenya I never forget. And yes the worse the quality of the PA system the worse the chatter. What is even worse is that they feel entitled to make that noise in the name of sharing the gospel.

Sayra said...

Shiko,

Try talking to ur local authority. We had those kind of guys who force you to listen to them. Though it took a while for them to be moved, they were eventually moved.

Wanjiku Unlimited said...

Mcheku let me first laugh at you. Local authority? Have you forgotten Kenya has become a lawless country? Starting right from the top? Anyway I'll ask around if there's a way to report these things. Just hoping the policeman I report to does not attend one of these noisy churches ehehehe.

Wanjiku Unlimited said...

Sayra say what?! They were moved?! Thanks for the info. And the way I'm busy laughing at Mcheku Lol. Mcheku pole. Kumbe they can be moved Lol.

Sayra said...

Shiko,
Wacha tu nikuchekelee kidogo ... ha ha ha ... lol.
Nikute gmail.

Maua said...

Shiko,ati you report to the police, is that their area? City kanjo, ama Municipal kanjo. The other thing would be to get your neighbours and all you lot sign a petition. Ask how many signatures you need for that to be effective. Seems to work in London. hahahahhahaha.

If you have a lawyer friend, s/he can pose on your behalf,(like you've had enough and you are taking them to court) and see where it ends.

KK said...

Well... your human rights, I'm made to understand, stop where the next person's begin. These people are encroaching on your rights and there should be an authority to protect you... then again, look where you live:)
As for their Holy Card... well, I believe we have freedom of as well as from religion.

BP ONE said...

Shiko..Noise..cant be and will never be Holy.This "preachers" are heartless , don't they know the loud noise from their amplifiers is really hurting the ear drums of the public before it reaches the souls of their could be followers ...don’t they even take note that in the back yard of their church or the houses close to the public field where they make the noise there could be a sick or , an aged person or a child suffering from ear ailment.
Who will teach them to practice what they are preaching before they cause more harm.

Digzer said...

Girlfriend I so hear you. I have one of those in my hood but it's kidogo far and they only set up on Sunday morning ... where they proceed to sing horridly tuneless songs that would give Ian Mbugua a heart attack.

On the what-to-do, I'm with Maua. I don't think Kanjo will be very interested in helping you (although the level of interest will be directly proportional to tne amount you want to part with). Get a lawyer to do you a demand letter that threatens to take them to Court coz they're actually causing a nuisance. If they've had this done before they may not flinch. Otherwise you may be so lucky as to have them re-locate!

Pole

Wanjiku Unlimited said...

KK freedom of as well as freedom from religion..... very well said.

BP you're right it must be hell for someone who is not feeling well and wants to relax at home and recuperate. And children who want to do their homework.

Digzer true the tuneless songs. Kanjo Lol. I dont think so. If all else fails relocation may be the only answer. Hoping another one wont come and plant a church in the new location!

bOMSEH said...

I really don't miss the crusades and all the noise pollution. Especially when the preaching has a main preacher in English and his side-kick translating in any other language. They always sound comical.

Lakini there is the morning adhana (calling) from the mosques around here. I guess most governments are afraid of interfering with God and religion as a whole, and since people don't complain, it continues to happen.

neema divine said...

lol...'testing one two three hallelujah'
weee, i can never forget those churches and you remind of the other noise, loud speaking in tongues!!!! i used to leave near one church and i hated it!!!

Wanjiku Unlimited said...

Bomseh and the praying is not what you're familiar with. their prayers come from the bottom of their stomachs - something like they're being strangled.

Neema lol yeah. testing testing......

ragskanyi said...

I understand your frustration with religious noise makers. They should be considerate. in fact i would suggest that you make a large banner saying "Jesus was no noisemaker."

Anonymous said...

Wanjiku,
I think you have a solution here provided by ragskanyi@8:29 PM. .“in fact I would suggest that you make a large banner saying "JESUS WAS NO NOISEMAKER."” Also you can add “BUT A SILENT PREACHER.”
Then to drive your point home , write a bigger one : “JESUS WAS NOT ACHRISTIAN, PLEASE, CRUSADERS LEARN YOUR RELIGION BEFORE YOU PREACH”…Did I here you say What? Jesus was not a Christian? Yes check this link http://therefinersfire.org/yeshua_not_christian.htm…Some times it good for one to know his/her religion better, rather than being a blind follower. I am told off late many Priests and preachers are turning to other religions. See this link…http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080128184458AAbqJ5t
MMP

Wanjiku Unlimited said...

Rags and MMP thanks for the tips.

MMP thanks for the links. I'll check out the links it seems we're up for an interesting read.

Thanks guys for all the tips and advises.

Paul Merrill said...

I am totally with you on this one.

When we lived in Kenya (we left about a year ago) - we were maybe 50 metres from Nyayo Stadium. All manner of noises interrupted our peace and our sleep.