Senior Religious Leaders in Kenya commit to secure the sanctity of places of worship from divisive politics

By Cidella Kariuki

Sujata Kotamraju, HCK National Secretary General signing the Peace and Cohesion declaration

In a meeting facilitated by the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya on 11th June 2021, alongside heads and members of various Religious Coordinating Bodies, saw a consultation and deliberation on the course of action to be taken towards reinforcing peace and cohesion in the country.

In view of various political agendas being pushed to the forefront, all whilst the climate of the country spews into uncertainty as affairs of state once again engorge the nation, religious leaders are seen as not only a beacon of hope but also a neutral point best placed to advocate for the interests of its followers. Bishop Cyrus Mugoh, Chair of the IRCK Peace and Governance Standing Commission and from the Organization of African Instituted Churches of Kenya (OAIC-K), underscored the need for knowing and having a defined mandate within which religious bodies and leaders should be able to offer the prophetic voice and create awareness to its followers.

In line with this understanding, the discourse set about to address; the relationship between religious and political leaders primarily within places of worship, their role in the political processes of the country and a dive to transform places of worship into centres of refuge and hope for the downtrodden. In conformity with this, Executive Director of IRCK, Dr. Francis Kuria called attention to grounds for Religious Leaders and bodies to have a hand in politics but with limits as a great deal of elected officials use these forums and houses of worship to create a narrative that can be seen as that which is not supported nor acknowledged by the varying faith communities.

Additionally, garnering a large following, in conjunction with the high regard in which they are held in within the communities, serves as a causation and reminder as to why their involvement in party politics is influential plus beneficial. On putting together actions to be taken, emphasized upon were the need to develop and disseminate messages of hope amidst such times, creation and implementation of guidelines on how political leaders should conduct themselves in places of worship and the need for a set agenda for political preparedness that would see accountability for actions committed.

Among the distinct religious bodies, a number of activities were reported to be taking place with the view to promoting peace and national cohesion. Bishop Njau of Evangelical Alliance of Kenya (EAK) along with OAIC-K shared in this as they both outlined religious leaders who fall under their platforms on counselling and mediation. Mohammed Said of the National Muslim Leaders Forum (NAMLEF) stated how they are using platforms such as Muslim TV shows to educate people on their civic rights. Equally, the Hindu Council of Kenya (HCK) highlighted that they are using online resources to promote peace and have public presentations all while creating awareness as they go.

To bring to a close, Dr. Kuria disclosed the United Nations, UNDP, UN Women and various ambassadors concern for the coming election and the level of preparedness thus far so as to maintain peace and what role religious leaders can play alongside them. Among them being; maintaining calm, reducing hate speech and monitoring what politicians are saying, the need to do more to bridge the gap between ourselves, how to establish inclusivity for all, the need for financial support and what mechanisms can be established to facilitate that.

With all this in mind, the presentation and signing of the declarations in the presence of officials will seek to see that the RCB’s are held accountable and act in accordance with the law and the principles they endorse and uphold dear to their faiths.

With support from UNDP under ‘Transcending Foundations of Peace and Security for Inclusive and Sustainable Development in Kenya’’ will supportto model congregations spread across the country to implement actions from the declaration to safeguard places of worship from political infiltration.

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