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Clerics call for self-regulation of religious organisations

A section of leaders in Homa Bay County have called on the government to strengthen existing umbrella bodies and allow for self-regulation of religious bodies.

The leaders said that giving the institutions more powers to self-regulate will curb radicalisation and indoctrination of the public.

They gave the views in Homa Bay town when they presented submissions to a taskforce constituted by the government to look into how best religious activities can be regulated without causing harm to the society.

The taskforce was formed in the wake of the Shakahola cult deaths linked to Preacher Paul Makenzie whose Church is said to have indoctrinated followers.

Those who presented their views opined that religious activities should be regulated to prevent recurrence of similar cases.

Homa Bay County Interfaith council Chairman Abrahams Odongo said despite religions having coordinating bodies, the institutions were not effective in their work.

Among the bodies include the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims and Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He proposed to the task force that the State should give powers to the umbrella bodies to come up with regulatory frameworks that will incorporate all religious organisations.

“The umbrella bodies should take their activities to the grass-root for close monitoring and should be allowed to de-register denominations that propagate wrong doctrines,” Odongo said.

Bishop Odongo said the government lacked the competencies to detect early illegalities in places of worship.

He suggested that the governing institutions should review the laws to deal with the emerging issues in the religious sector.

“Many things have changed in the society and you still find that we use laws which were made in 1968. We need reviews to the laws for proper governance,” he said.

Odongo pointed out that for religious groups to win the confidence of Kenyans, each place of worship must be registered to an umbrella body that is recognised by the government.

Homa Bay Supkem Secretary Nuhu Abdul accused some politicians of being behind some of the challenges bedeviling places of worship.

He said most religious leaders tend to side with politicians who have money.

“Prayers have been commercialised. The law should disallow politics in places of worship,” Masud said.

In his submission, Homa Bay Education Network Coordinator Julius Omuga said there is need for introduction of a state department for religious activities.

“We have religious leaders who cannot help the society because of their teachings. There are churches which share places of worship with clubs and bars,” Omuga said.

Human rights activist Evans Oloo said suspects who will be found guilty over the Shakahola massacre should be taken to the international criminal court (ICC) for prosecution.

He proposed amendments in the constitution to regulate religion.

The taskforce in Homa Bay was led by Catholic Archbishop Maurice Muhatia and High Court Advocate Charles Kanjama.

Kanjama said most religious leaders are concerned about abuse of the church where some clergy men hide in religion to engage in questionable activities.

“A lot of Kenyans have died because of radicalisation and violent extremism. We are looking at ways of addressing this,” Kanjama said.

Although religion is free for all Kenyans, the task force wants to find out why some places of worship threaten national values.

By Davis Langat

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