Evangelical churches and Muslims in Kenya have condemned the government’s plans to regulate religious organizations in the East African country. Christian clerical leaders gathered Monday in the capital, Nairobi, vowing to fight what they called an attack on the church, according to local media.
“The church in Kenya is under attack,” the chairman of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, Bishop Mark Kariuki, told Capital FM, a privately owned Kenyan radio station. “Yes, it is under persecution.”
The proposed regulations require all religious bodies to register and submit their statements of faith to a state-run agency for examination. Preachers must also undergo theological training. The Evangelical Alliance of Kenya said the move is aimed at curbing the growth of evangelical churches. Kariuki said the organization, which represents 38,000 churches and as many as 10 million Christians in Kenya, is planning to collect 3 million signatures to block the attorney general from signing the proposals into law.
"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 told Daily Nation, a privately owned newspaper. “Preachers are worshippers before they are preachers and all the worshippers have voters’ cards. 2017 is very close and we will not hesitate to use those cards.”
The vast majority of Kenyans are Christians, while Muslims are the second-largest religious group. The Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims also opposed the regulations, saying they were developed and proposed without consulting all relevant stakeholders.
“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,” the council’s secretary-general Adan Wachu said in a statement, according to privately-owned newspaper the Standard.
However, some religious leaders welcomed the proposed regulations. Bishop Beneah Salah of the Anglican Church of Kenya, which is not evangelical, said government intervention was needed to end the “commercialization” of religion.
“Horrible things are happening in the church today. There is a lot of commercialization of the gospel with this prosperity gospel,” Salah told the Standard on Monday.
The prosperity gospel is a strain of evangelical Christianity that urges followers to claim, by faith, biblical promises of financial gain and physical health, among other practical benefits.