Kenya Bishops Call for Peace

Source: Catholic News Service

Kenya’s Catholic bishops joined other religious leaders in calling upon the country’s politicians to ensure the forthcoming general elections, scheduled for Aug. 9, are free, fair and peaceful.

The May 19 statement was issued under the umbrella of the Dialogue Reference Group, a coalition of religious, community, nongovernmental organizations and labor unions, to which the Kenya bishops’ conference belong.

Two of the main contenders for president are former Prime Minister Raila Amolo Odinga and William Samoei Ruto, currency deputy president.

Political campaigns in the country are gradually gaining momentum. Past elections have been marred by violence. The clashes largely have been among community groups without formal organization and are based on identity lines. However, violence among ethnic groups aligned with the country’s main political parties has erupted four times since 1992.

The bishops have repeatedly expressed their desire that candidates remain off of church compounds and away from pulpits, with their most recent statement on the issue coming in September.

“We wish to firmly state again that our places of worship and liturgy are sacred and (do) not serve as political arenas. The church is above politics,” the bishops said in a Sept. 15 statement.

Meanwhile in some parts of the country, there have been reports of local priests working with parishioners to allow candidates to address congregations in an effort to gain votes.

“Well the bishops’ order to this effect still stands,” a priest who asked not to be named, told CNS. “Priests or church leaders allowing this to happen must know that this is against the last year’s order by bishops,” the priest said.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Anthony Muheria of Nyeri referenced the issue of candidates speaking at churches as he addressed the country’s annual National Prayer Meeting in Nairobi.

“Peace,” he told the gathering of civic and religious leaders as well as politicians, “isn’t just a word. A good word. It is a costly commodity which is paid with an entire life … with all of you … with all of me because it cost all of Christ. We want to pay that price for peace.”

“Today, we are here to pray and we are pleading with God almost fearfully because just like the disciples in the Sea of Galilee, we find ourselves facing a storm,” he added. “Stormy weather. We see elections coming and it is a storm brewing. Our ship is being rocked by the waves, by the rising exchange of ungodly words and incitement.”

Source: Catholic News Service