Religious leaders in Garissa have urged governments to strengthen the umbrella bodies of religious organizations to self-regulate themselves.
Religious leaders argued that the 2010 constitution has the necessary laws governing the religious organizations and there’s no need to create more laws.
Speaking during a public participation forum before the taskforce reviewing the laws on governing religious organizations in Garissa town, the leaders drawn from the Muslim and Christian communities urged the government to target the individual’s religious leaders who go against the set laws instead of condemning the entire society.
Sheikh Abdirahman, representing Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) and the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) called on the religious leaders to have structured disciplinary mechanisms to tame those who may want to go rogue amongst themselves and always be at the frontline in rebuking questionable religious teachings.
“If something is wrong somewhere the involved faith should come out openly through the media and expose anything being used in the wrong way disguised as religion,” Abdirahman said.
“Our constitution has given us the freedom of worship. However, some people have taken advantage of it to abuse the freedom to radicalize their followers through questionable teachings that are harmful to our societies like in the case of the Shakahola ‘massacre’,” he added.
Reverend Joseph Mwasi representing Garissa pastors’ fellowship said that the events at Shakahola are identical to acts of terrorism and requested the government to take strong measures against the perpetrators.
“As pastors, we are proposing that if any of us goes to these extreme measures that are against the constitution should be investigated, arrested and be charged personally as an individual instead of judging all the churches as a whole,” Mwasi said.
Religious leaders further opposed the call by the government to have them acquire a certain level of education in order to be allowed to lead congregations arguing that their calling and dedication to their faith are more important than any certificate.
Philip Kitoto, chairman of Evangelical Fellowship Alliance of Kenya, who was also part of the taskforce team, said that theirs is to only note down everyone’s ideas and suggestions so that it can be merged to form a report which will be submitted to the government.
“I believe that, yes we have challenges, and the idea is how we deal with the challenges without infringing on the freedom of worship,” Kitoto said.
The taskforce reviewing the laws governing religious organizations was created by President William Ruto following the discovery of mass graves in Shakahola forest, Kilifi in what has been dubbed the Shakahola forest massacre.
By Latifa Hassan and Erick Kyalo