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KENYA-CONSTITUTION Apr-7-2010 (370 words) xxxi

Kenyan church leaders withhold support of country's draft constitution

By Walter Cheruiyot
Catholic News Service

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- Kenyan religious leaders said they will reject the proposed new constitution during a referendum in June because it would legalize abortion and keep in place Islamic courts, opening the prospect that Islamic law would become part of the nation's laws.

Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi, chairman of the Kenyan bishops' conference, and Rev. Peter Karanja , general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Kenya, vowed April 6 to mobilize Christians to reject the constitution at the polls.

"We must not legislate laws that contradict what God has forbidden and the Bible is very explicit that you should not kill." Cardinal Njue said of the constitutional provision that would legalize abortion.

The cardinal said the Kenyan bishops' conference would release a formal statement outlining their stance on the constitution when bishops meet later in April.

Among the bishops on record as opposing the draft document are Archbishop Boniface Lele of Mombasa, Bishop Cornelius Korir of Eldoret, Bishop Anthony Muheria of Kitui and Bishop Joseph Mairura Okemwa of Kisii.

Bishop Korir told Catholic News Service that the proposed constitution poses serious concerns because the views of average Kenyans were overlooked by legislators who drafted the document.

"We are going to tell the Christians to reject the draft since it is against God's teaching," Bishop Korir said. "Why support a document that supports abortion to be legalized?"

Former President Daniel Moi has backed the religious leaders in rejecting the draft constitution. In a statement, Moi said the document failed to capture the mood and aspirations of Kenyans and does not encourage national unity.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki is on record campaigning for the constitution's passage despite recently assuring Kenyans that abortion would not be legalized.

At least two religious leaders, including a priest known for his work on human rights, announced their support for the constitution in its current form.

Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala and Father Ambrose Kimutai of the Nakuru Diocese said the constitution deserves to be adopted by voters.

"We are going to support the draft as opposed to our church leaders," Father Kimutai told CNS. "We have struggled for many years to getting a new constitution and those few clauses will be amended later in parliament."


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