Catholic bishops in Kenya yesterday (19 Decemer 2006)issued a pastoral letter urging clergy to stay away from involvement in partisan politics - writes Francis Njuguna.
Kenyan priests that they are forbidden b the church to: "practice commerce or trade, either personally or through another, for their own for another's benefit, except with the permission of the lawful ecclesiastical authority."
The three-page document, signed by all 28 bishops and addressed to clergy across the country, sets down five practical guidelines which caution priests against standing for parliament or holding any public office whenever it means sharing in the exercise of governing power.
The letter also reminds priests that they are not permitted to accept positions on state or corporation boards. In the specfic area of party politics, the bishops say priests should not take sides, as it will divide the local community.
The bishops point out that each priest can exercise his democratic right to vote according to his conscience. But they say, The priest is a symbol and builder of unity, the pastoral letter declares, stressing that political canvassing or urging people to vote for particular candidates or parties leads to confusion and division.
In order to avoid misunderstanding, the Catholic bishops have advised, priests should also not serve on structures such as the Constituency Development Fund without the permission of the local bishop.
However, this does ot mean that Catholic Christians will not be involved in public life. Each diocese has a Justice and Peace Commission which can assist in such structures, and the church affirms the laity in exercising their commitment, in the name of the Gospel, to promote justice, peace and reconciliation.
Kenya will hold its general elections next year (2007) as required by the constitution of the country. The last elections took place in 2002, and saw President Mwai Kibaki, under the National Rainbow Coalition, was elected president. He took over from Daniel Arap Moi, who had ruled the country since 1978 after the death of the founding father of the nation, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.