KENYA: Anglican head differs with other church leaders on new law

April 6, 2010

Anglican Archbishop Eluid Wabukala of Kenya has chosen to differ with other Christian leaders in his country over a draft constitution that would permit Islamic "Kadhi" courts, and authorize abortion. The archbishop has urged Kenyans to back the law, while suggesting that controversial clauses in it could be revised in future. "The document is better than the current one. It is my feeling that Kenyans should accept it and amend some clauses later," Wabukala told journalists on April 3 in Nairobi, two days after the country's parliament had passed the law. Still, Wabukala's view is contrary to that of other Kenyan Christian leaders, who have rejected the draft constitution as being against the wishes of their followers in the east African country. The leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and the national Christian council have accused politicians of ignoring their views, and warned of future confrontation. They have also promised to mobilize their members to oppose the draft in a referendum on July 2. Two days after parliament voted for the law, Catholic Cardinal John Njue said all religions should be treated equally in the constitution. He criticized the inclusion of Islamic courts because he believed that would mean one faith had been elevated above the others. Njue also said the church would not accept the clause that allows for the termination of a pregnancy. "The Catholic Church … will not change its stand regarding this document. We only hope a certain solution would be found before it is too late," the Daily Nation newspaper quoted Njue as saying during an Easter Day service at the Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi. The Rev. Peter Karanja, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, said his grouping of mainly Protestant churches would not accept a constitution which lifts one religion above others in a secular state. The NCCK has in the past suggested a clear separation of state and religion, and equal treatment for all religions. "We had not anticipated a confrontation but I can see we are being pushed to one," Karanja, an Anglican, told journalists on April 2. President Mwai Kibaki has since urged the churches not to frustrate Kenya's quest for a new constitution, and said that citizens should support the law to help develop and stabilize the nation. Nearly 80 percent of Kenya's people are Christians, while 10 percent are Muslims.

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