Catholic bishops lay it on the line
Prelates resolve to form the National Dialogue Forum through which they hope to bring together all sectors of the society to begin a discussion on Kenya’s future
“We, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops wish to address you dear people of God, Kenyans of all walks of life and people of good will, during our Plenary Meeting at St. Mary’s Pastoral Centre, Nakuru. The Plenary meeting is taking place as we prepare to bury our dear brother Bishop Cornelius Kipng’eno Arap Korir, who went to the Lord on October 30, 2017. We know how much he sacrificed and risked his life to maintain peace, harmony and justice.
We are meeting at a time when the country is going through one of the most trying moments, that requires our collective responsibility in upholding everything that is good and right, to promote unity, reconciliation, and national cohesion.
Once more, the resilience and resolve of Kenyans has been put to the test and we applaud the tremendous hope that has been exhibited during this whole cycle of electoral process.
We wish to thank the many Kenyans who have continued to pray ceaselessly for our country. It is because of these prayers and love for our country that we have come this far; overcoming one challenge after another. We thank you for your spirit of restraint and hope for a united Kenya.
Fellow Kenyans, we have previously addressed ourselves to issues of governance, elections, security, poverty, corruption, radicalization, reckless statements and hate speech, ethnic polarization and political intolerance.
We have continually called on the political class to mind this country and save it from falling into civil strife and anarchy, to make and promote policies that ensure equitable distribution of resources, to the respect of human rights and dignity, and to promote economic growth and political stability.
We have similarly spoken out against injustices and the disease of corruption that threatens to eat into the fabric of our nation. We have addressed ourselves to the concerns and plight of the youth in unemployment.
We have pointed out the dangers and pitfalls that could run our country into conflict. We have continuously reached out to the leaders to convince them of the need to dialogue in situations of disagreements.
We have always engaged all constitutional institutions of our country in order to carry out their mandates and discharge their duties for the good of our country. We have collaborated with other religious leaders, members of the civil society and leaders of different sectors of our country, in order to build pillars of peace, reconciliation, justice and national cohesion. Above all we have faithfully carried out our responsibility as divinely mandated, namely calling on all Kenyans to pray for our country, for peace and justice.
Inspired by the social teaching of the Church, we participate in the joys and sorrows of our people, reflecting on them in the light of the Gospel. In the recent past and more specifically in the better part of this year, we have dedicated our messages and letters to the elections of 2017.
In our Lenten Campaign pastoral letter, we urged all to be committed to credible and peaceful elections and elect leaders of integrity. We engaged all stakeholders in working and securing peaceful elections.
However, to our dismay, what we are witnessing currently in Kenya is disheartening. The country is now threatened with disintegration and conflict, if the situation witnessed currently is anything to go by. We are witnessing a nation divided down the middle on political and ethnic lines.
The violence and police brutality reported in various parts of the country is scaring. Political leaders have polarized the country even more, with an attitude of chest thumping and grandstanding. We have heard clarion calls for secession and civil disobedience, demonstrations and protests and boycotts which are only increasing tensions.
A few months ago we hoped for elections that would unite Kenya, but we are witnessing elections that have widened the division. We know many Kenyans are on the brink of losing hope and living in despair. We wish to assure you, dear Kenyans that we understand your concerns and anxieties. There is still hope for Kenya.
We must recognize that there are pressing political, social and economic and moral issues for which we must address and find a lasting solution.
We as Kenyans, must examine the underlying reasons and the simmering discontentment that bubble to the surface every time we have general elections in this country.
Anybody who loves this country can see the inequality in the distribution of the resources we have, the lack of political will, to
economically pull up those regions of our country bedevilled by extreme poverty; the looting of public resources meant for the poor and for development of the country; the manipulation of the population by some politicians and the radicalization of politics.
All these underlying issues and more are taking our country into dangerous waters of intolerance and anger that could destroy us all. This situation, if unchecked leads to more hatred and mistrust, which could easily lead to anarchy and breakdown of social order.
We now wish to state categorically that political leaders must stop their reckless utterances and hate speech that are inciting people to violence.
We invite these leaders to reflect on what the Gospel says: “from those whom much has been given, much will be demanded (Lk 12:48). We demand mutual respect from our leaders.
Our leaders must stop, calling others names; the politics of division and ethnic profiling, agitation for secession, because all is not lost, the corruption that is killing our country and the killings and police brutality.
They must stop taking sides along tribal and party lines, selfish hardline positions that are only leading our country to civil strife, the senseless chest thumping and meaningless political competitions, and for once think of the good of the nation.
We have to learn the way of non-violence and learn to handle our differences in an amicable and loving way. Stop using violence, for violence begets violence.
Dear Kenyans, after reflecting over this matter, we wish to affirm that the only one way out of this political crisis is through constructive dialogue, as Pope Francis invited us.
It is evident and we must
agree that there are underlying problems that only resurface during elections. To deal with our problems we must dialogue. Pope Francis recently stated, “Favouring dialogue, in any form whatsoever, is a fundamental responsibility of politics. Sadly, all too often we see how politics is becoming instead a forum for clashes between opposing forces.
The voice of dialogue is replaced by shouted claims and demands. One often has the feeling that the primary goal is no longer the common good, and this perception is shared by more and more citizens. Extremist and populist groups are finding fertile ground in many countries; they make protest the heart of their political message, without offering the alternative of a constructive political project.
Dialogue is replaced either by a futile antagonism that can even threaten civil coexistence, or by the domination of a single political power that constrains and obstructs a true experience of democracy.
In the one, bridges are burned; in the other, walls are erected… Christians are called to promote political dialogue, especially where it is threatened and where conflict seems to prevail….” These words are very relevant to our situation.
Moreover, let us also recall the words of Pope Francis, spoken in State House on November 25, 2015: “To the extent that our societies experience divisions, whether ethnic, religious or economic, all men and women of good will are called to work for reconciliation and peace, forgiveness and healing.
In the work of building a sound democratic order, strengthening cohesion and integration, tolerance and respect for others, the pursuit of the common good must be a primary goal.
Experience shows that viospearhead
lence, conflict and terrorism feed on fear, mistrust, and the despair born of poverty and frustration.
Ultimately, the struggle against these enemies of peace and prosperity must be carried on by men and women who fearlessly believe in and bear honest witness to the great spiritual and political values, which inspired the birth of the nation.”
Therefore, we the Catholic Bishops, having analysed and reflected on the entire situation that has unfolded in Kenya, have resolved to organise a National Dialogue Forum, with the aim of bringing all sectors of the Kenyan society together, to look at the true picture of our country and set the agenda for true discussion and resolutions.
Irrespective of the outcome of the Supreme Court decision of the petition, and any evolvement of the political situation, we are convinced that this National Dialogue Forum is necessary.
Our focus on the National Dialogue will be directed at difficulties of elections and the reform of the electoral process; national healing and reconciliation; criteria for addressing long term issues of governance; transparency and accountability; poverty, unemployment, economic inequality, conflict resolutions and injustices, among others.
This is the forum that we believe, shall offer opportunity to all Kenyans and especially the key political players to engage constructively in a bid to chart the way forward for Kenya.
The convening of a National Dialogue Forum will bring together Kenyans of all walks of life, including religious leaders, civil society and all other key stakeholders.
Among other things, the Forum will interrogate certain areas of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 that still remain problematic.
We as Catholic Church, will
peace initiatives and invite our brothers and sisters from other religious faiths and people of good will to join us.
Dear Kenyans, the passing on of our dear Bishop Cornelius Kipng’eno Arap Korir, who tirelessly worked for peace and reconciliation among conflicting communities provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the need for lasting peace in Kenya. The best way we can always remember him is for all of us to strive to peacefully coexist as people of one nation. May our Mother Mary, Queen of Peace cover us with her mantle of love.
God bless you all, God bless Kenya.”
The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops during their ordinary plenary assembly held at St Mary’s Pastoral Centre in Nakuru this week. They have resolved to spearhead peace initiatives to sort out political problems afflicting the nation.