Kenyan church leaders say prayers for controversial law

August 31, 2010 | Web First
By Fredrick Nzwili | Ecumenical News International

Kenyan Christian leaders said prayers at a national ceremony for the promulgation of a new constitution, although they strongly opposed the law in the referendum campaign that led to its adoption.

Church leaders campaigned against the acceptance of the new constitution, saying it permitted abortion, entrenched Muslim courts and limited religious freedom. They are now calling for the disputed clauses to be amended.

"This was a special moment for Kenya, and their prayers were crucial," retired Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi told ENInews on 27 August, soon after Cardinal John Njue, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Nairobi, and Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala led prayers at the ceremony.

"The law passed, but we must move forward. We believe we sounded our warning as prophets," said Nzimbi.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki promulgated the constitution at Nairobi's Uhuru Park (freedom park), amid loud cheers from thousands of citizens gathered to witness the historic event.

"This moment marks the decisive conclusion of the 20-year journey in search of a new constitutional order. This new constitution is an embodiment of our best hopes, aspirations, ideals and values for a peaceful and more prosperous nation," said Kibaki.

The new fundamental law replaces the one that has been in force since the country gained its independence from Britain in 1963.

Analysts said many Kenyans voted for the new constitution because it reduces the powers of the presidency, creates a new bill of rights and overhauls the government structure.

Mike O' Maera, the editor of the Catholic Information Service for Africa, noted that many Christians were among those who voted for the laws. The clerics' presence at the ceremony, he suggested, could be seen as an attempt to reach out to these church members.

"It is as if they are telling politicians that we can rectify this law together," O' Maera said.

Cardinal Njue in his prayers asked for special blessings for unity as Kenyans stood at that moment as one people, as one nation, with one destiny.

"Heal all the wounds of division in our midst, irrespective of religion and our social status. Make us become one people. Bless the constitution that is being promulgated today. May it guide us in forging a better nation, where our diversity will continue to find space," said Njue.

Archbishop Wabukala said the country's citizens were thankful for the dawn of a new era in Kenya. "May Kenyans take this new constitution as your gift of grace and give honour and glory to you," he said.

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