At the break of dawn on 4th August 2010, Kenyans took to the poll for a referendum on what would be historically a new beginning. A whopping 67% voted for the new constitution which was promulgated on 27th August. What is memorable in the run up for the referendum however, is the Church’s stand on opposing the proposed law.
The Church had raised concerns over a number of issues including the clause permitting abortion and the distortion of the right to religion. It is however the latter that has come to haunt the clergymen in recent times. They have found themselves grappling with outrageous rules by the attorney general and at times facing arrests for acting on their beliefs.
Most recently, Sr Cecilia Kamau was arrested on May 23, 2016 for barring public health officers from administering measles and rubella vaccines to pupils of St Anthony Academy in Nakuru. In her defense, the Catholic Church had raised concerns over the manner in which the vaccination was being carried out and also questioned the prescription. However, more than 48 hours after her arrest, the nun was yet to be arraigned in court. The clergymen came out to condemn the actions of the County Public Health Officer Samuel Kingori.
A closer look at the Right to religion reveals that the independence constitution provided the freedom of religion under section 78 where it quoted the following :-
Protection of freedom of conscience.
- Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of conscience, and for the purposes of this section that freedom includes freedom of thought and of religion, freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and both in public and in private, to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
- Every religious community shall be entitled, at its own expense, to establish and maintain places of education and to manage a place of education which it wholly maintains; and no such community shall be prevented from providing religious instruction for persons of that community in the course of any education provided at a place of education which it wholly maintains or in the course of any education which it otherwise provides.
- Except with his own consent (or, if he is a minor, the consent of his guardian), no person attending a place of education shall be required to receive religious instruction or to take part in or attend a religious ceremony or observance if that instruction, ceremony or observance relates to a religion other than his own.
- No person shall be compelled to take an oath which is contrary to his religion or belief or to take an oath in a manner which is contrary to his religion or belief.
- Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes provision which is reasonably required:-
- in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or
- for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedoms of other persons, including the right to observe and practise a religion without the unsolicited intervention of members of another religion, and except so far as that provision or, as the case may be, the thing done under the authority thereof is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.
- References in this section to a religion shall be construed as including references to a religious denomination, and cognate expressions shall be construed accordingly.
In contrast the constitution of Kenya 2010 provides for the freedom of conscience, religion, thought and opinion under article 32 as follows :-
- Every person has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.
- Every person has the right, either individually or in community with others, in public or in private, to manifest any religion or belief through worship, practice, teaching or observance, including observance of a day of worship.
- A person may not be denied access to any institution, employment or facility, or the enjoyment of any right, because of the person's belief or religion.
- A person shall not be compelled to act, or engage in any act, that is contrary to the person's belief or religion.
Scholars argue that the provisions are technically the same while the religious leaders point at the omission of the word “propagate” and the inadvertent lack of protection in institutions.
In a nutshell, the new constitution does not guarantee a person the right to preach his religion to another. Unlike the old constitution, the freedom of religion is not expressly provided for in institutions. These have seen clergymen being arrested for public nuisance and students filing constitutional petitions on the practice of their religious beliefs in learning institution.
Basically the persecution of God’s ministry may be viewed as a distant factor as was in the case of Pastor Saaed but even the greatest atrocities started with minor glitches. There is an obvious need for reforms in the legal framework with regards to religion. Article 8 of the constitution states explicitly that there is no state religion but even then the acknowledgement of God almighty is enshrined in its preamble
Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich has announced plans to formally introduce Sharia Compliant Islamic Financing in Kenya. Speaking at the International Islamic Finance Conference Africa (IIFCA) which was held in Nairobi on the 25th of January, the Cabinet Secretary said that the government planned to introduce legislation that will allow for Islamic Financing. Islamic Financing refers to a system of banking activities that are consistent with Islamic Sharia Law. It prohibits the charging of interest on loans, fixed deposits and mortgages. Mr. Rotich said that with major infrastructure developments coming up, the government was looking to access the cheaper loans available under Islamic Financing Model. It is estimated that Islamic Finance has about $2.1 Trillion in banking assets.
The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) is a multilateral development financing institution that operates like a world bank for its member states. It offers loans and sukuk (Islamic Bonds) that have been structured in such a way that makes them compliant to Islamic Sharia Law. A country has to be a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to be able to get financing from the IDB. Consequently, Mr. Rotich announced that the government has began the process of adding Kenya to the OIC group of countries.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation is an International Organization that was founded in 1969. It currently has 57 member states, 27 of which are in Africa. The OIC has permanent delegations to the United Nations and the European Union. According to its Charter, the OIC aims to preserve Islamic Social and Economic values and to promote solidarity between member states. The Charter also speaks of promoting and preserving Islamic teaching, promoting Islamic Culture and defending the true image of Islam. This has a number of consequences for its Member States. For example in 2013, the previous Secretary General of the OIC, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu announced that the foreign ministers of member states would meet and discuss the possibility of cutting ties with any State that recognizes Jerusalem as the Capital City of Israel.
Paying close attention to the OIC Charter, it is clear that their agenda is to spread and consolidate Islam. Kenya is not an Islamic country. We need to ask ourselves, years down the line, what would be the consequence of joining the OIC? Would we get to a point where we need to concede some of our sovereignty in order to align with Islamic Principles? After taking money from the OIC group, how much wiggle room would the country have to say no if demands were made that the majority of the nation don't agree with? The OIC came to be in 1969 after an Arab coalition lost the Six Day War to Israel. Saudi Arabia wanted to unify Muslim and Arab states in what they called the "struggle for Islam". Deeply entrenched in their goals is to "Liberate Jerusalem" and to "support the struggle of the Palestinian People". Islamic Sharia Finance is a new weapon being used in the "struggle for Islam" whose end goal is to impose a worldwide submission to Islam. In line with this, there is evidence that the IDB has been channelling funds to groups such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. The IDB is meant to be a development bank, and between 1975 and 2005, it released $50 billion in funding to Muslim Countries, but little regional economic impact can be felt in those countries.
This feels like we are simply selling our souls to the highest bidder. We might realise too late that we have paid too high a price for access to cheap loans.
CHRISTIAN LEADERS' CONSULTATIVE FORUM
Standing With The Christian Faith
We church leaders from various Christian organizations have today met here at Jumuia Place to review and chart the way forward in view of the incessant and well orchestrated campaign against the Christian faithful in the country that has been blamed on terrorism.
During this forum, we have deeply reflected on these attacks and taken note of the glaring lack of coordination and commitment within the government to deal with terror. We also took time to review the blatant violation of the rights of Christians to life itself and enshrined religious freedoms. We therefore would like to share the following message with the nation.
2. Condolences Following Garissa Attack
We wish to restate our messages of condolence shared with the bereaved families and friends who lost their loved ones following the cowardly terror attack on young and innocent lives at the University of Garissa. We continue to pray and mourn with our brothers and sisters who were affected, even as we condemn those responsible. We also remember the family of the student who died and those injured during the recent stampede at Kikuyu Campus over terror scare.
It is our prayer that the families may find solace in the biblical words of Revelation 21:4 - "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
3. Message To Christians
The Church leaders and Christians in general consider the people killed in Garissa on account of Christianity as Martyrs. And as such, a memorial monument should be built in Garissa and other places with the names of those killed in their honor.
4. String of Attacks on Christians
Having reviewed the available data since the first terror incident in Kenya in 1975, to the latest mass murder in Garissa two weeks ago, this meeting noted with concern the startling number of innocent lives that have been lost in the hands of terror groups.
Whereas those behind these attacks were seen as enemies without an outright agenda who only thrived on inflicting pain to their perceived enemies, the latest trend that has focused on Christians on a scale we have never seen before.It is not lost on us that during the 2013 attack on Westgate Mall, the attackers left no doubt who their targets were while executing their brutal mission. The same fashion was repeated during the 2014 Mandera bus attack and recently the Garissa University attack.
These statistics are in addition to the numerous attacks on churches where tens of people were killed and others maimed.
In all these scenarios, believers in Jesus Christ have clearly been the targets for death and maiming. It is naïve for anyone to imply that the so-called terrorism in Kenya is anything other than jihad against Christians.
5. Message to Muslims and Their Leaders
We have noted that all the attacks have been committed by people professing the Islamic faith. For many years, Christians in Kenya have offered a hand of fellowship to our Muslim brothers and sisters. We have been forthright and rational in our approach to inter-religious issues through our various structures. Major areas of collaboration have been in peace work and security in the country and the partnerships were fostered to withstand the radicalisation of Muslim youth. However, there has been a marked lack of commitment by the Muslim leadership to addressing the challenges in a forthright manner. The recent self imposed ultimatum by the Moslem political leadership to expose those with links to the Al Shabbab and other terror groups is a clear indication that they know more than what they are actually willing to reveal.
It is especially not lost on us that after a spate of grenade attacks around Eastleigh and neighbouring estates a year ago, the same leaders publicly told the bombers to go throw the explosives elsewhere, and the attacks ended.
This meeting further questions the timing of their stated position, especially coming after an attack of such magnitude. We therefore demand that North Eastern politicians under the leadership of Adan Duale, quickly avail to government the information they have on Garissa massacre and terror networks in the country if they are honest and mean what they say during their public pronouncements. Failure to do so can only mean that they are conspirators who hide under the veil of religion and political offices, who should be personally addressed for their culpability.
6. Message to the Government
Publicly available information indicates that the government had prior knowledge and intelligence of an imminent attack on the university before the unfortunate incident and massive loss of lives in Garissa happened. Various foreign missions in the country have corroborated the same and indicated that there was sufficient intelligence that was shared with government prior to the attack. The government on its part denies these revelations.
Regardless of the truth, the past performance of the government has time and again failed to take action to guarantee Kenyans and especially Christians of their security. We ask
the government to form a Commission of Inquiry into Garissa massacre, to determine how security agencies allowed such massive loss of life. We ask the president to review his intelligence gathering system and take appropriate action to redeem our homeland security.
How possible is it that only four security officers were assigned to the institution despite being a soft target in the most volatile regions in the country?
7. Proposed Amnesty for Radicalised Youth
While we appreciate the Amnesty extended by the government, to the those denouncing association with Al-Shabbab and radicalism and extremism, it should never be blanket, a framework of admission and conditionality set to avoid abuse and misuse. We need to remember that these youths being spoken about here willingly absorbed messages inciting them to kill Kenyans, they took the attendant oaths, and have in the past committed attacks in line with that radicalization. Any blanket amnesty is ridiculous and an affirmation that the government is officially abetting terrorism..
It is the greatest betrayal to Kenyans to ask us to accept avowed killers amongst us who have not gone through any demobilisation processes nor repented of their sins and crimes. The blanket amnesty does not even require them to denounce and reveal what the radicalisation entailed or who did it. Who is the government trying to protect? We believe that the government must take responsibility for atrocities committed to the people of Kenya through terrorism.
In this regard, we wish to remind the President that he has a constitutional mandate to protect the people of Kenya, who expect nothing short of that. Christians expect nothing short of quick arrest, prosecution and jailing of terror suspects irrespective of the offices they occupy in public or society.
We further remind the President that security and in particular homeland security is a highly sensitive issue and a priority to any sovereign nation. Given the frequent attacks and open persecution of Christians, the community is now wondering who the Kenyan government is for. Christians are looking for leadership that speaks to their plight and the president should demonstrate to Kenyans that he is actually in charge of the country and ready to protect all.
Christians have over the years been targeted for killing and maiming in the name of terrorism. We have often turned the other cheek, but now the cheeks have run out. The government must move with speed to definitively and openly punish the perpetrators of these attacks before Kenyans take the law in their own hands and foment an endless religious war that could expose many law abiding Moslems and Christians. In this regard, the government must make terrorism and radicalisation very expensive, so expensive that no family will condone their children engaging in it. No leader, regardless of the position they hold, should be allowed to support terrorism and still live outside the confines of prison.
Signed at Jumuia Place on this day of 15th April 2015 by Church leaders.
The Press Statement was made by Church leaders and Christian
Para-Church organization after a consultative meeting that was held in response to the recent killings of
Christians in Garissa. The Church and Para-Church Leaders were drawn from Evangelical, NCCK, Catholic,
Baptist, AEE, FOCUS, and participants had come from various areas in Kenya.
STATEMENT OF THE RELIGOUS LIBERTY COMMISSION OF THE WORLD EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE
Let's Eradicate Terrorism in Response to Killing of Christian Students in Kenya
We condemn the cowardly, senseless, inhuman, targeted killing of innocent Christian students at Kenya's Garissa University College by masked gunmen from the Al-Shabaab terror group this week. But let's not stop there, and see this attack as the last straw.
We were at a loss of words as we heard the news of attackers with explosives and AK-47s targeting a campus site where Christians had gone to pray on Thursday. This deep sorrow should now impel us to defeat terrorism in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere.
"We cannot look at terrorism in isolation, be it Kenya or Somalia or Iraq or Syria," WEA-RLC Executive Director Godfrey Yogarajah said. "Al-Shabaab, which claimed responsibility for the shameless killing, as well as groups like al-Qaeda, Islamic State (ISIS) and Boko Haram are transnational terror groups or aspire to become one, and appear to be either cooperating or competing with each other in revealing their evil intent."
Kenya shares a long, porous border (435 miles) with Somalia and has long suffered from instability in its neighborhood. Kenya also has several coastal towns, which can facilitate movements of terrorists from Somalia. Al-Shabaab controls southern parts of Somalia, where the common border exists.
Al Shabaab has a Kenyan affiliate, called al Hijra, which exploits perceptions among sections of Muslims about their marginalization by the primarily Christian administration of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Al-Shabaab has been seeking to retaliate for Kenya's decision to send troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight the terror group. It is estimated that Al-Shabaab killed at least 400 people and injured over 1,000 in more than 100 attacks between 2011 and 2014.
The same terror group also attacked Nairobi's Westgate Mall on Sept. 21, 2013, leaving at least 68 dead and 175 wounded. This week's attack was even more brutal.
"It's an unfortunate race among terror groups to cause destruction of human lives to maintain their relevance at a time when ISIS is causing unprecedented bloodshed. This trend demands that the international coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria should expand their mission to include other terror groups as their targets – of course, not with airstrikes or troops on the ground," Yogarajah added. "World leaders should join hands to defeat terrorism by cooperating with each other and treating the end of terrorism in every country as a common objective."
The United States gives millions of dollars as military and financial aid to Kenya to help fight terrorism, and can, therefore, have a say in how Kenya counters the threat from Al-Shabaab. And Kenya seems to be going the wrong way.
Kenya must be told to make changes in its counterterrorism strategy, which currently appears to be mere pursuit of heavy-handedness. The alleged targeting civil society, curbing civil freedoms, extra-judicial killings and abductions and random raids in Muslim areas will not only not help, but may also make the country a fertile ground for radicalization and recruitment for terror groups.
"The international community and world leaders working towards peace and stability in all terror-torn regions and helping governments fight all terror groups could be the best way forward," Yogarajah said.
"We, as Christians, believe in the power of prayer, and we must be on our knees for the victims and survivors and the governments and the international organizations that are committed to sincerely help eradicate terrorism."
The Religious Liberty Commission is monitoring the religious liberty situation in more than 100 nations, defending persecuted Christians, informing the global church, challenging the Church to pray ( www.idop.org ) and giving all possible assistance to those who are suffering. The Commission also makes fact-finding trips and meets with governments and ambassadors speaking up for the suffering brothers and sisters. At the United Nations, the Commission reports about the situation and arranges special hearings with Christians from countries under pressure.