KENYA: Churches launch 'No' campaign with prayer rally

May 10, 2010

Christians in Kenya have held a national prayer rally in support of their campaign for a "No" vote in a pending constitutional referendum.

At the May 8 event, organized by Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, Christians waved red cards, singing and dancing to gospel music to signal their rejection of the proposed draft constitution. The referendum is scheduled for August.

"I urge you to have a dream; to have a dream of another Kenya founded on justice and equality before the law, to have a dream where all people embrace and practice their religious beliefs without interference," said the Rev. Peter Karanja, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya.

Karanja, an Anglican, was speaking at the prayer rally in Nairobi's Uhuru Park (Freedom Park), where he reminded those present that many Christians would be campaigning against the draft law under the slogan, "Say 'NO' peacefully."

Karanja said, "We serve a big and powerful God. We are convinced that we will succeed."

The church council leader said Christians were convinced that some provisions in the proposed draft constitution would undermine the practice of religion, and Christians were standing up to be counted in rejecting it. He added that Kenya did not need a new constitution just for sake of it, but if it were to have one it must be a good one that delivered justice for all the country's citizens.

"A new constitution should be one that changes Kenyans, not merely [one] that changes Kenyan institutions and governance," Karanja said.

President Mwai Kibaki has urged Christian leaders to back the draft constitution, and to propose amendments after the referendum.

Church leaders have rejected this offer, and said it is possible to amend clauses in the draft constitution that will entrench Islamic or Kadhi courts, and open the way for legalizing abortion. Other church concerns are that, under the proposed new constitution, conversion from one religion to another, and propagation of one's religion will be banned.

"The church in Kenya is standing at a very decisive moment," the Rev. Boniface Odoyo, a retired leader of the Nairobi Pentecostal Church, told the prayer rally. "Never in our history has the church been called to make such a choice. It is a spiritual choice."

Some media reports claim evangelical groups in the United States are bankrolling the "No" campaign by churches, a claim church leaders have refuted.

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