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

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - TRIBUTE TO KENYA’S HERO -

“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.”

PHOTO | COUR­TESY

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.

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