Church leaders in Kenya have welcomed peaceful polling in a referendum for a new constitution for the East African country, drawn up after violence claimed more than 1,000 lives following a disputed election in 2007.
"People have also turned out in large numbers. This has been a long journey and now we are at the critical junction," Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala told ENInews soon after he cast his vote in the 4 August 2010 poll.
More than 12 million Kenyans, some blowing whistles and vuvuzelas, the horns made known worldwide through the soccer World Cup in South Africa, were voting to decide the fate of the new constitution.
The new fundamental law is a key measure in a pact negotiated between President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, former political foes who formed a coalition government following the violence that came after the December 2007 election.
"We would not like anything that brings us back to the experiences of the post-election violence. That's why we are making a special appeal for peace," said Cardinal John Njue, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Nairobi.
Still, many Christian leaders in Kenya have campaigned against the new constitution, because of clauses it contains that they say will liberalise abortion, entrench Muslim kadhi courts and limit freedom of worship.
"Kenyans are determined to shape their destiny, but whatever side wins, we shall begin the process of amending the controversial clauses," said Anglican Bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa.
Church leaders in a joint statement on 30 July had reiterated the demand for the new constitution to be rejected.
"It is true that there are many positive improvements in the proposed draft, but the good has been mixed with evil sections that affect the moral life and rights of this country in irreversible and fundamental ways," they stated.
The church leaders also warned that whether the measure passes or fails, the country will be left divided and in need of healing and reconciliation.
Several retired church leaders, however, broke ranks with their successors to mobilise support for the constitution, which would replace one that has been in force since the country gained its independence from Britain in 1963.
[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.]