Kenyan churches soften stand on Islamic courts

March 18, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 18 – Christian leaders have softened their opposition against Kadhis courts in the proposed Constitution and are now willing to accept the inclusion of religious courts in the supreme law, but insist these must not be specific to any religion.

The leaders said they were willing to accommodate the ‘need’ for any religion to establish its own courts but these should not be specified in the Constitution. They fronted the replacement of the clause in the proposed law that allows Kadhis courts with a general provision allowing for the establishment of any religious courts to address personal, marriage, divorce and inheritance matters.

“Every religion should have the opportunity to establish its courts and this way we see we shall be equal as Kenyans from any faith,” Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukhala said at a press conference.

In a memorandum they have sent to the Members of Parliament who are holding a consensus building retreat at the Kenya School of Administration in Kabete, the clergy said such courts should also not be controlled or financed by the State.

“Those (religions) willing to establish the courts should shoulder the burden of running them,” said Archbishop Wabukhala.

The leaders insisted that the Constitution should not make reference to any religion and opposed a clause exempting Muslims from the provision of the Bill of Rights.

“The church believes that no person should be denied or exempted from the provisions of the Bill of Rights,” said a statement by the leaders.

Other Churches represented at the press conference included the Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, Methodist church and the Nairobi Pentecostal Church. The National Council of Churches of Kenya, the Evangelical Alliance and the indigenous churches had also sent representatives.

In their memorandum, the leaders urged the legislators to ensure that the clause on the right to life is amended to outlaw induced abortion. Although the proposed Constitution has outlawed abortion it provides that the same can be allowed though any other legislation. Christian leaders want this clause removed claiming it can be used by roguish MPs since such a law would require a simple majority to pass.

The legislators are meeting in Kabete to seek consensus on various contentious issues before debate kicks off next week in Parliament.

NCCK General Secretary Canon Peter Karanja challenged the MPs saying they are the final hope of resolving these and other sticky issues that stand on the way to the new Constitution.

“This is a final important chance the National Assembly should utilise fully to help the country attain the new Constitution,” he said.


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