Kenyan Bishops Stress Moral Flaws in Constitution
Family Calls for Reopening Father Kaiser Murder Case
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NAIROBI, Kenya, AUG. 20, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The new Kenyan Constitution, which will take effect Aug. 27, still has some moral issues to address, the bishops of that country are pointing out.
In a statement released Thursday after the plenary assembly of the Kenya Episcopal Conference in Nairobi, the prelates said, "as the shepherds placed to give moral guidance to our people," we "reiterate the need to address the flawed moral issues in this new constitution."
The Constitution was passed by Parliament on April 1, and approved by the people in an Aug. 4 referendum.
"We respect the outcome of the referendum, where the larger numbers of Kenyans have voted to accept this new Constitution," the bishops affirmed. "However, truth and right are not about numbers."
"We thank all the Christians and many Kenyans of goodwill who voted 'no' in consideration of the issues raised by the Church," they continued. "We also acknowledge many who voted 'yes' while having serious misgivings on the moral issues contained in the constitution."
The prelates affirmed, "We understand the many pressures that were at play at this time, and call upon you to revisit and play a crucial role in addressing these issues as we now seek to implement the constitution and forge a way forward in the general reforms we now have to embark on."
The statement added: "This reform process cannot end, must not end, since we all aspire to build a better society that will respect the rights of all and facilitate our economic, social and moral development.
"Most Kenyans indeed recognized that the proposed constitution we voted for or against on Aug. 4, 2010, had errors that needed to be corrected. We ask that these issues be addressed through the process of amendments as promised by the principals during the campaign period."
One issue is that the Constitution allows for abortion for reasons of maternal health, and many people say it will open the door to abortion on demand.
The bishops' conference urged Kenyans to unite in affirming "the supremacy of God's law over politics and human laws."
It also pointed out the need for forgiveness and respect after the "unwarranted exchanges, accusations and insults" that marked the pre-referendum period.
The bishops called for an outreach "to the underprivileged and the weak," especially "the weakest and most vulnerable and defenseless members of society among us, the unborn children."
"The destiny of our country is to have people of high morals and the good of our current and future generations depend on it," the conference affirmed. "We shall remain firm in our role as the conscience of the nation and stewards of moral values."
It concluded: "May God be with us, in our journey as a nation! May we recognize him as our point of reference."
Also on Thursday, members of the Church gathered for a memorial Mass to mark 10 years since the death of Father Anthony Kaiser, a member of the Mill Hill Missionary congregation.
Family and friends called for a renewed investigation into the priest's murder, as the killers were never apprehended.
Father Kaiser, a native of Minnesota, worked among the Kenyan people for 35 years before he was found dead, shot in the back the head, on Aug. 24, 2000, along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway.
The priest had been vocal in condemning the violence of the authorities, who were at that time under the administration of President Daniel arap Moi. The missionary testified publicly against prominent cabinet ministers who were responsible for raping Kenyan girls and perpetuating violence against refugees.
Father Kaiser had been scheduled to appear before the International Criminal Court in the Hague to testify against the Moi administration three weeks after he was killed.
There is evidence that he feared for his life, as he wrote before his death, "I want all to know that if I disappear from the scene, because the bush is vast and hyenas many, that I am not planning any accident, nor, God forbid, any self-destruction."
Nonetheless, at the time, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) concluded from photographs that the death was a suicide.
Archbishop Zachaeus Okoth of Kisumu, who presided over the memorial Mass in Nairobi, stated, "We pray hard that one day, the truth will be told as to who killed our beloved brother."
Father Anthony Chantry, superior general of the Mill Hill Fathers, sent a statement, which was read to the participants in the memorial Mass.
In it, he said: "On behalf of those who continue to seek justice for Father Kaiser, I call upon the government of Kenya to do all in its power to find, try and punish those responsible for Father Kaiser's murder. To this end, I strongly urge the government of the United States of America to ensure that the FBI cooperates fully in these new investigations."
The U.S. Congress did eventually pass a resolution recognizing Father Kaiser's death as an "assassination" and requesting an investigation.
The investigation was reopened by the Kenyan government, but closed again in 2007. The magistrate concluded that the priest was indeed murdered, but that she could not "point out with certainty" who the killers were.