Communique of the National Christian Conference
December 11, 2020
MAKE KENYA A GREAT NATION
COMMUNIQUE OF THE NATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONFERENCE
The National Christian Conference convened by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops – Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (KCCB – CJPC) and the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) under the auspices of the Ecumenical Civic Engagement Programme (ECEP) has been held here at Ufungamano House, Nairobi, on 10th and 11th December 2020. The Conference brought together church leaders from across the country who include clergy, women, youth and persons with disabilities.
Guided by the theme “Informed and Participatory Decision Making on Constitutional Amendments”, the Conference analysed the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020 with the goal of building consensus and strategizing for nationwide civic education.
The Conference reflected on the scripture in Exodus 19: 3 – 6
This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what are to tell the people of Israel. You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
The delegates recognized that the character and destiny of every nation is determined by the laws they set for themselves. A nation that makes God priority in their laws becomes great. We now share the following message with our fellow Kenyans.
- COVID-19 PANDEMIC
This National Christian Conference is deeply concerned about the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on our nation. Families have been torn apart; Men and women continue to be impoverished by loss of jobs and livelihoods; Child abuse and gender based violence have increased; The health and wellbeing of Kenyans has been devastated as medical facilities and staff are stretched to breaking point; and the exercise of communal worship has been disrupted.
To mitigate the impact of the pandemic, we recommend:
- To the Church and all the people of Kenya
- Support one another and avoid stigmatizing those infected by the virus
- Support local congregations to have income generating projects to ensure continued delivery of pastoral ministry during emergencies
- Pray and fast for the nation to overcome the pandemic
- Speak out against corruption and injustice at all levels
- To the government of Kenya
- Prioritize the welfare of the people, not just the interests of the political leaders, in the management of the Covid-19 pandemic
- Conclusively address the reports of corruption in the procurement of materials and services for management of the pandemic
- Finance the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) so that it covers Kenyans infected by Covid-19 who have no other means of paying for the treatment
- Facilitate productive dialogue to negotiate and listen to the doctors and medical workers to end the current strikes that are affecting services to Kenyans
- REOPENING OF SCHOOLS
This National Christian Conference reiterates the caution given by the Extra Ordinary Plenary of Catholic Bishops and the NCCK Executive Committee regarding the proposed re-opening of schools in January 2021. We appreciate the importance of children resuming their learning. However, we emphasize the need for all stakeholders to engage the Ministry of Education to ensure that the schools are ready and safe for the children to learn without exposing them to infection with the Covid-19 virus. It is worth noting that public schools were already crowded before the pandemic struck, and this is expected to worsen following the closure of many private institutions. Further, parents are likely to struggle raising school fees in view of the devastating effects of the pandemic.
We recommend that that the government ensures that adequate safety measures are in place, and that NHIF is ready to cover for all costs of treatment for any learner who may get infected. Alongside this, psychosocial and spiritual support should be put in place during the resumption of in school learning. Where necessary, the Ministry of Education can engage religious institutions to avail facilities to be used as classrooms to achieve social distancing requirements.
We further call upon the government to consider waiving school fees arrears for parents who have been heavily impacted by the pandemic.
- CONSTITUTION OF KENYA (AMENDMENT) BILL 2020
This National Christian Conference has taken into cognizance the sentiments that have been expressed by the cross-section of Kenyans with regard to the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020. Recognizing the importance of all Kenyans being involved in any discussions and processes that touch or affect the Constitution, we restate the importance of dialogue and consensus building. The Constitution is too important to be left in the hands of political leaders alone.
We in this regard commend His Excellency the President for listening to the concerns raised by the church and other Kenyans which led to a reconsideration of the provisions in the original report by the Building Bridges Initiation Secretariat.
Our position remains that it is too early for us to say Yes or No to the Amendment Bill, and instead remain committed to promoting consensus building on the referendum so that it promotes unity and peace in the nation, not division and competition. Consensus should lead to a re-opening of the Bill to accommodate concerns on provisions that may claw back on gains Kenyans have already made.
In this regard, we recommend as follows:
- To all the people of Kenya
- Read the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020, and participate in civic education forums so that you fully understand the implications of the proposals in the Bill
- Evaluate the Amendment Bill on the basis of whether it solves the 9 issues that were identified by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Right Honorable Raila Odinga when they set up the Building Bridges Initiative process
- Resist any incitement to conflict on account of the Bill, the referendum process or any other grounds
- Exercise your sovereign power directly during the referendum
- Recognize that your decision during the referendum will impact how Kenya is governed now and in the future, and so avoid making parochial decisions
- To the Church
- We request all clergy and leaders of congregations to provide time during worship sessions for civic education on the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020. We need to provide truthful interpretation of the Bill for the people so that they are not dependent on the influence of the proponents or opponents
- Conduct civic education to empower Kenyans to make informed choices
- Collaborate with our partners in the Dialogue Reference Group at national and county levels to establish observatories for monitoring the referendum process to pre-empt malpractices
- Desist from according politicians space to carry out campaigns for or against the Bill in the places of worship
- To the Government
- We request the government to establish measures to protect Kenyans from Covid-19 infection during the referendum process
- Provide resources for nationwide civic education
- Take into account the views of all Kenyans especially those who express opposition to the BBI process
- Investigate and prosecute any persons who incite the public against one another
- MEDIATION FOR PEACE DURING THE REFERENDUM AND 2022 GENERAL ELECTIONS
This National Christian Conference recalls that in 2005, a divisive referendum was held 2 years before the General Elections, and the result was a devastating wave of post-election violence. As Kenyans we need to do all we can to prevent a similar occurrence. Key in this will be separating the politics of the referendum from the politics of 2022 General Elections.
We have resolved to continue working with our fellow faith leaders in the Dialogue Reference Group at national and county levels to mediate for peace before, during and after the referendum and the 2022 General Elections.
We urge all Kenyans to reject any leaders who foment conflict and violence in their communities.
Recognizing the importance of all Kenyans being involved in any discussions and processes that touch or affect the Constitution, we restate the importance of dialogue and consensus building. The Constitution is too important to be made the subject of conflict and political competition.
We conclude by calling upon all Kenyans to pursue paths that lead us to peace, unity and a better Kenya, and to avoid paths that lead to conflict and discord. We all have a collective responsibility to work for peace and unity, and this should be embraced in the discussions surrounding the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020.
We also ask all Kenyans to take time to pray and fast for the nation, always referring to the words of our National Anthem:
O God of all creation, bless this our land and nation, justice be our shield and defender
May we dwell in unity, peace and liberty, plenty be found within our borders
We wish all Kenyans a Merry Christmas and blessed New Year 2021.
Rt Rev John Obala Owaa
Rev Canon Chris Kinyanjui
General Secretary, NCCK