Church leaders in Kenya are rallying their followers against a draft constitution which they say favours Muslims and will tear the country apart - writes Fredrick Nzwili
"Christians will not relent in holding out this position as it is our national duty," said the Rev Peter Karanja, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, on 1 February 2010.
Karanja spoke at a press conference in Nairobi in which the leaders released a statement warning that a clause in the proposed constitution amounts to a ploy to introduce Islamic Sharia law in Kenya.
"It is possible to think Christians are being sensational, but if you look ahead at the next 50 years, 100 years, or couple of centuries, when none of us is working on a new constitution, people will look back and ask: Were Christians so naïve as to allow this to happen?" said Karanja.
The church leaders also accused some Muslims of seeking to carve out an Islamic state within Kenya through institutions such as Sharia banking and insurance, a Halal bureau of standards, and now the Islamic judicial system or Kadhi courts.
They want the issue resolved because they believe that the constitution is extremely important since it defines their nation, its principles and values.
"It is therefore of great importance that these cardinal issues are dealt with, if the current constitution review process is to succeed," said the Rev Gerry Kibarabara, a Pentecostal bishop, who chairs the Kenya Christian Constitutional Forum.
Although Kadhi courts have been in Kenya's constitution since independence, Christians filed a court case in 2004 demanding their removal.
At the same time, Muslims are accusing church leaders of insincerity, saying the courts would protect Muslims' religious rights, isolated by the current constitution.
"The current constitution and the draft are largely based on British Common Law, which borrows from Judeo-Christian laws and traditions. The conduct of the State is Christian in nature," Ibrahim Isaac, the secretary general of International Da'awah Resource Centre, told journalists on 2 February in Nairobi. "No Kadhi courts. No constitution."
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]