Kenyan Christians Oppose Gov't Plans to Force Church Registration

Evangelical and Catholic leaders in Kenya slammed new government forced registration rules for churches, though some Anglican leaders have said it is a good way to tackle the "commercialization" of religion.

The government proposals would require all religious bodies to register with the government and pastors to undergo formal training at a "reputable" seminary and to obtain police clearance.

The Evangelical Alliance of Kenya denounced the proposals, arguing that they are aimed at stopping the growth of Evangelical churches. Over 82 percent of the Kenyan population is Christian, and close to half of those Christians are from Protestant churches, while roughly a fourth are from Roman Catholic churches.

"The church in Kenya is under attack. Yes, it is under persecution," Bishop Mark Kariuki, chairman of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, told Kenyan radio station Capital FM.

"Registration of churches was stopped since 2014. We believe this is meant to stop evangelism and growth of the church since other societies are being registered freely," Kariuki added to the Daily Nation newspaper.

Catholics have also opposed the new plans, with the Rt. Rev. Philip Anyolo, chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, calling them a "clear violation of the constitution" that is "explicitly clear on the freedom of worship."

"The new rules give the registrar sweeping powers, including the power to invade churches to conduct impromptu audit," Anyolo said in a letter signed by 25 senior Catholic clergy, according to The Tablet.

"The Catholic Church is a people of God. As such, the state cannot purport to audit the faith of the people of God."

The Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims also spoke out against the regulations. Secretary-General Adan Wachu commented to the Standard: "The regulations risk violating freedom of worship and amount to a clampdown on religious institutions. This will be against the constitution. The [attorney-general] should halt the implementation of the regulations."

Yet some leaders of the Anglican Church in Kenya believe the government's plans are a good idea, claiming that the state of churches in the African country is not healthy.

"Horrible things are happening in the church today. There is a lot of commercialization of the Gospel with this prosperity gospel," said Bishop Beneah Salah of the Anglican Church of Kenya.

"Perhaps God is using the state to punish the church as he did in the past, where he used kings or nations to discipline the church," he added.

Attorney-General Githu Muigai is seeking to target self-proclaimed Christian prophets and faith healers whose influence is growing, BBC suggested, alongside Muslim preachers who promote extremist ideology.

Kenya's Christians are looking to continue on the path of healing and recovery this year, with Garissa University College, the campus where close to 150 Christian students were slaughtered by Islamic radicals in a major attack last year, having reopened earlier this month.

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