Religion a time bomb in Constitution debate

It is now clearly emerging that the battle lines for the draft constitution are being drawn largely on the background of religious beliefs.

I say this because of the emails, more appropriately hate mail, being circulated.  Truly, I am glad that the Government will be monitoring hate speech and that Information PS Bitange Ndemo has also put his foot down based on the Communications Act (2009).

Still and with all due respect, I must say that it is very disturbing when some of our religious leaders – who are well aware of the power they yield – choose to take rather dogmatic stands.  Such stances unfortunately do not encourage self-interrogation by individuals subscribing to them, but to follow unquestioningly.

How different is this stand from that of leaders who urged their people to cast their vote solely along tribal and regional blocs in 2007?  Have we already forgotten the potential of our differences to escalate to war? 

I want to urge our religious leaders to carefully consider the consequences of their publicised decisions and actions. 

I am of the opinion (and I am no expert in this area) that what the world thinks and perceives of your God, will be read in your actions.  Be careful then that you do not proclaim messages that are contrary to His nature and in so doing fail to accomplish your core purpose.

To put my argument into context, I want to remind us that many wars have been fought throughout the ages based on religious differences.  I remember studying about the religious crusades in Europe (11th Century) and the French wars of religion in the 16th Century, although I am not sure whether these studies are still part of the curriculum.

Although the differences may start out based on other fundamental issues such as land and nationalism, you will find that at some point one or both parties often revert to their religious beliefs as a basis for going to war.  Notably, most of the major religions often have passages that permit in some form or the other, their followers to invoke war.

Nevertheless, even the noblest of beliefs can be manipulated with religious connotations by people who have evil intent.  It is therefore important for our leaders to qualify their statements and urge their followers to refrain from engaging in hateful and intolerant language.

Closer home, I am reminded of the work of the Holy Spirit movement in Uganda led by one Alice Auma aka Alice Lakwena.  Formerly a medium or spirit guide, it is said that she was prompted to establish the Holy Spirit forces to fight alleged wrong-doing by her government.

As a means of addressing the political grievances of her Northern people, she claimed that God had commanded her to rebel against the Ugandan army.  She was also to seize Kampala thereby creating a ‘paradise on earth’ for her people.  Many were left dead in the wake of the rebellion and unfortunately, their issues unresolved.

What is to say that the same cannot happen of Kenya?  What if some of the more aggressive cults were to take up the mantle of abortion and Kadhis courts as their driving force yet we know they have a different agenda?

When discussions about the draft constitution are based on a rational point of view, the debate is good for us because it enlightens us all and we are able to make a personal informed decision. 

However, when this discussion is twisted to suit our religions, those that feel oppressed may also invoke their beliefs and take radical action under the cloak of religious freedom.  At this point, none will be the winner or the loser; we all lose as a country.

I would therefore urge each of us to make the decision whether to vote Yes or No with sobriety. Do not evoke the emotions of your neighbour by rubbing your beliefs in their face.  It does not work in our best interests to awaken the wrath of an enemy whose secret weapons we are not privy to. 

Let us not stoke the fires that can burn faster than we can gather water to put them off.

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