Kenya: Bishops urge peace as election campaigns kick off

 Ahead of Kenya's general elections, scheduled for 27 December, Catholic bishops have warned politicians against actions and utterances that could stir violence or divide the country along ethnic lines. In a statement entitled: Love God and Your Neighbour: Elections at Our Doorstep' and signed by the Cardinal-elect, Archbishop John Njue, chairman of the Kenya Episcopal Conference, people are urged to use their votes wisely. Opinion polls show presidential candidate Raila Odinga of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leading, followed by President Kibaki, who is running on the Party of National Unity (PNU), a broad coalition that includes the former ruling party KANU that he trounced in December 2002.Other candidates are Kalonzo Musyoka of the Orange Democratic Movement Party of Kenya (ODM-Kenya) and Pastor Pius Muiru of Kenya People's Party (KPP). The Bishops' statement says: "We yet again wish to appeal to each and every Kenyan, without exception to maintain and safeguard Peace, Calm and Non Violence. All of us, from whatever part of the country we come from, or whatever political views we hold, are Children of God! We are placed on this earth to Know, Love and Serve Him and our Neighbour. This is the theme of our recent pastoral letter." It cautions against the drumming up of tribal, ethnic or religious differences, calls for temperate language from all candidates and reminds voters that: "Catholic Church has members in almost all political parties of Kenya, which is a fruit of democracy. "We as Catholic bishops therefore, have no preferred candidates, but rather our duty is to emphasize the moral aspects of political and social life." The Catholic bishops also called for prayers, saying: "Without God our country would not have a destiny. We must all accept the verdict of the elections and forge ahead with activities of Nation building".

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