BY UHURU KENYATTA
It gives me great pleasure to join Kenya’s people of faith at this inter-religious prayer breakfast. It is a critical opportunity for our nation to consider the many things we take for granted in our daily life, especially on matters of faith. This is our moment to pause and reflect.
Kenya is home to millions of people, of different ways of life. They all share the country’s promise and struggles, opportunities and setbacks, hopes and fear. The diversity of our society provides us with different ways of understanding the context of various events. But it also leads us to inevitable, unified moral truths.
Faith unifies our value system, making ultimate sense of humanity’s quest for redemption and fulfilment. The journey to righteousness is inseparable from the quest for truth. And it is this: that true fulfilment can only be achieved through the unwavering commitment to values. All religions teach this. Every creed in our society applies integrity as a measure of righteousness. There is no faith that espouses vice or corruption as the path to success or happiness.
Faith is therefore the language by which humanity articulates eternal truths. The prism of cultural experience lends religions their diversity. But it is like saying the one thing in hundreds of languages.
That is why, in Kenya, faith unifies. We celebrate the God of All Creation through the eyes of many religious experiences. We recognise the Almighty God our Creator to represent the many paths our faiths lead us through.
In so doing, we have been mightily rewarded as a nation. The fruit of national unity alone is testimony that faith is intended by God as the principal engine of solidarity. We have dozens of ethnic and racial communities amongst us. Through shared struggle and success, we have come to learn that each of us represents a unique means of pursuing a unified national enterprise. In so doing, tolerance and mutual understanding has become the cement holding us together through the years.
I reflect on all this, not to offer an unsolicited homily, but to testify as your President, that the struggles we have faced as a nation required the solidarity, endurance and sacrifice ordained by each of our faiths to succeed. Every time we have united, we succeeded. In the struggle for Independence, our solidarity won the day. In our quest to consolidate our Statehood through the constitutional order, National Unity bore fruit.
Throughout our history, attempts have been made to divide the people of Kenya on religious lines. But it has never been in our moral constitution to nurse an intolerant disposition, a hateful instinct, or a divisive impulse. This conscious drift, away from extremism and exclusion, and towards acceptance and understanding, is key to our national strength. Many nations have been riven tragically by the excruciating sword of religious intolerance. Communities have been sundered through hatred and suspicion caused by misunderstandings of own, and each others’ faiths. We have held together and shared our struggles and successes, despite the many temptations and provocations of the agents of discord. Religious extremism, xenophobia and misrepresentation of other cultures have featured in global discourse from time to time. We have been attacked by terrorists who cannot stand our way of life as a united society. As a country, we have always found it easier staying together than giving way to fractures. Not just easier, but unavoidable.
This has been our power and reward. Faith teaches us tolerance and unity. In turn, solidarity and mutual understanding increase our chances of success as individuals and communities. That is why we embrace the spirit of pulling and coming together whenever we are collectively in need. Yet it also enunciates a spiritual injunction to be tolerant, united and industrious. This is a manifestation of love and trust. Without exception, all our religions teach us these things. Every faith instructs us to embrace love, charity, trust as well as courage, unity and mutual consideration, as individuals and communities.
As a country, our National Anthem and Constitution enunciate these articles of faith. The constitution does not elevate one faith over others. Neither does it institute a national religion. It creates the space for all people of faith to celebrate their uniqueness and diversity in a manner that fosters national values. As long as we remain a Republic of people of values, surely, we must be a Republic for people of all faiths.
We are healing from a wound inflicted by the hand of fiery intolerance and hatred. The agents of evil perpetrated terrorism in the name of religion. They hoped to destroy our society and divide its people along religious lines. But we fought back as one people, and continue to nurse our grievous wound together. We will heal each others’ wounds, and defend our nation together. As one national family, we recognise with one mind, the distinction between terrorism and Islam. One is a depraved quest for anarchy and murder, while the other is a way of life comprising pure love. Together we will build a prosperous, stable nation of many peoples united in the quest for happiness. That is how we do it, because that is who we are.
There will always be attempts to destroy our national fabric and subvert our sovereignty. Our enemies come in many guises, using religion and our national interests as pretexts to undermine us. Just as they will use religion to engender division, trade to pursue theft and charity to entrench exploitation, they will also use justice to perpetrate hideous subterfuges. We know them. However hard they endeavour they disguise their intentions, we can always tell. We have resisted them before and we shall resist them now. Just as we have succeeded before, we shall succeed again.
This nation is ordained by God to be our home. It is destined for greatness. We must love, defend and work for it with all our hearts. The best way to defend Kenya is by staying united and remaining faithful to our values. We must practise the teachings of God and commit ourselves to brotherhood and communion. Let us not forget to always give thanks for all we have, and for all we have overcome. And we must pray for each other, and for our Nation.
May God bless each one of you, and all the people of Kenya.
(Kenyatta gave this speech during the national inter-religious prayer service at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre on October 1, 2013)