Winking at Corruption No More

Christians help lead a worldwide movement opposing graft.

When Eric Wainaina was a student at the Berklee College of Music, he often led children in music at Twelfth Baptist Church in Boston. But Wainaina remained troubled about his home country, Kenya, which was being destroyed by corruption. Development specialists at the World Bank estimate that individual incomes there would increase by about 30 percent without the endemic bribery.

So, while attending Twelfth Baptist in 2001, Wainaina composed and recorded "Land of 'A Little Something,'" an anticorruption song. To his surprise, it soon became the most popular song in Kenya-and the campaign anthem of the new president, Mwai Kibaki.

Last July, Wainaina held a concert in Nairobi, Kenya, where the average urban resident pays 16 bribes a month for things such as driver licenses, bridge crossings, hospital treatment, and favorable court judgments. The Nairobi native led 100,000 people in singing against government corruption.

"I'm not a politician," Wainaina, 28, says. "I'm just a young Kenyan at a time when there's a lot of corruption. … Christians have to stand up."

Wainaina is an example of a nascent global movement. While AIDS and religious liberty continue to top the international agenda for many Christians, anticorruption efforts have an increasingly prominent profile. In June, U.S. President George W. Bush and other leaders of the economically powerful G-8 nations announced plans to provide an extensive package of anticorruption initiatives in Peru, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and the Republic of Georgia. These heads of state also pledged to join the new U.N. Convention Against Corruption and to "translate the words of this convention into effective action."

This new focus is a rediscovery of an old Christian tradition, and Christians ...

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