Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Interfaith Issues in Kenya

As a practicing Catholic, I found it interesting that Kenya had as high a percentage of Catholics as it does. According to CIA World Factbook, 33% of the people are Catholic, eight percent higher than in the U.S. In addition, 45% of people identify as Protestant (mostly Anglican, due to British influence), leading to an overwhelming Christian majority. CIA World Factbook also mentions a 10% Muslim minority, with a disclaimer that these numbers can be disputed. I didn't think much about that last statistic until I read this article here.

The article in question talks about a proposition that would ban sharia courts from Kenya. For those who do not know, sharia is the legal system adherents of Islam follow. When implemented within a national framework, Muslims will handle legal disputes within their own communities rather than through a secular court system (unless, of course, the secular courts are under sharia law). In Kenya, these courts are protected by the constitution and only apply to the Muslim communities. However, this vote would overturn that ruling, stating that sharia law has no place in a secular nation like Kenya. This proposition is backed by many Christian groups in both Kenya and the U.S., groups that see Islam as a violent faith in opposition to their own.

While I believe religious courts of any kind should be accountable to the State in order to ensure basic human rights protections, I also find it appalling that self-proclaimed Christians would use this as an excuse to persecute people for believing differently. For a religion founded specifically to stand for the rights of the poor and oppressed (of which Muslims in Kenya are), this is astounding. In addition, as someone who supports human rights, I believe people should have the right to choose how to run their own communities, how to resolve disputes between members of these communities, and how to implement practice of their faith in their lives. In my opinion, with regard to certain aspects of sharia law (Muslim marriage, divorce, etc), the Kenyan government, as a secular nation, has no business interfering.

It also enrages me that Christian groups in the U.S. have been fueling the fire of persecution in African politics (such as Uganda's homosexuality ruling or this recent tension in Kenya). To me, this is another facet of Western imperialism, just like our aid politics, our trade decisions, and our governmental inference. Rather than showing genuine Christian concern for the plight of different peoples (domestic and international), these groups are using Jesus as a puppet to spew their own personal agenda, one of domination and subjugation. The fact that someone twists the God I claim to follow, one who teaches compassion, mercy, and equality, makes me hurt for the people affected by this.

I hope and pray these disputes are resolved in a peaceful manner. I pray that the tension is reversed and that people can learn to live peacefully, Christian and Muslim. I also hope that people can realize the impact of their actions, whether globally, politically, or economically. To me, this is proof that we have a much larger impact than we realize. Let it be a good one.

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