Messages of peace, love and unity dominated Sunday sermons in various churches as the country heads to the polls tomorrow.
Most church leaders called on both candidates and the electorate to be peace ambassadors and unite Kenyans during and after the elections.
At Christ the King Catholic Church in Nakuru, the congregation was asked to avoid hate messages aimed at instilling fear among diverse communities that live in the cosmopolitan county.
Leading the service, Fr Lawrence Mbogo said it was the Church’s responsibility to preach peace among all Kenyans, regardless of their tribe and political affiliations, to avoid a recurrence of the 2007-2008 post-election skirmishes.
Mbogo, who is also the vicar general in the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru, said peace was vital for the country’s development and that the Church should not sit and watch it burn because of elections.
“Believers should be at the forefront of spreading the peace message among all Kenyans. We want people to live in unity because elections come and go,” he said.
He said Kenyans should be allowed to elect leaders of their choice who were development oriented, away from tribal affiliations that continue to divide the nation.
The clergyman also asked candidates for various positions to have faith in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), adding that the commission should be allowed to perform its roles without any form of interference for a free, fair and transparent process.
“The country needs free and fair elections; to ensure that this is achieved, politicians should not interfere with IEBC,” he said, and asked candidates and their supporters to accept the outcome of the election and support the winners.
He echoed the sentiments of IEBC commissioners, acting Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet that people should go home after voting to avoid crowding around the polling stations.
“We cannot have everyone being a leader. This is like a football match - you might be a good player but fail to score, but you do not fight later. Let us support anyone who wins,” he said.
The message was the same at the Anglican Church of Kenya Cathedral of Good Shepherd branch in Nakuru town.
Provost Martin Kabiro, who led the service, asked believers to live in brotherhood during and after the polls.
He said peace was vital for the country and that nobody should abuse the virtue because of their political ambitions.
“Elections come and go, which is why we should ensure that our neighbours are safe because life must continue,” said the provost.
In the North Rift, a general lull in political activities was witnessed after the official end of campaigns as church leaders preached peace on the last Sunday ahead of polling day.
Most urban centres in the region were unusually deserted as several residents left for their rural homes to vote.
Church leaders prayed for a peaceful election and called for unity and co-existence after voting.
“Peace begins with each and every individual, and I urge Kenyans to go and vote on Tuesday (tomorrow) and remain united as usual. Kenya is one and this is neither the first nor last elections we are going into,” said Bishop Patrice Chumba of the African Inland Church North Rift region.
Bishop Chumba, who spoke after delivering a sermon at Moi University, said elections provided Kenyans with an opportunity to reassess their leaders.
“This is an opportunity when Kenyan voters can assess their leaders, replace those they feel are not performing well and retain others. As we go into the elections, we should remain a united country,” he said.
At the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Eldoret diocese, Fr Timothy Kiplagat appealed to leaders in the country to preach and maintain peace during and after the polls.
He said the recent utterances made during political rallies by both Jubilee Party and National Super Alliance (NASA) leaders should not divide Kenyans.
Kiplagat, representing Bishop Cornelius Korir, said leaders should lead by example.
“Good family, good church, good leadership, good country. This is what we pray for as servants of God. I humbly call on leaders irrespective of political affiliations to show full commitment to preaching peace to the people of Kenya. Let us love one another and by doing so, this country will never again have clashes as witnessed in 2007-2008,” said Kiplagat.
Various candidates also took the opportunity to join Christians in prayers. In Nandi County, Senator Stephen Sang, who is eyeing the governor’s seat on a Jubilee ticket, and Senate candidate Kiprotich Cherargei, also of Jubilee, attended church events in Kabiyet and Kaiboi in Mosop constituency.
In Kisumu and Siaya, more church leaders joined calls for peace, tolerance and harmony ahead of tomorrow’s elections.
Religious leaders also conducted prayers attended by a number of politicians yesterday. The clergy urged the electorate to ensure that tomorrow’s polls were peaceful.
Reverend Joel Atong, the provost of Siaya Anglican Church, told the congregation to be ready to accept the leaders who would emerge victorious and work with them “because they are God’s chosen”.
He also told the congregation not to fight with neighbours.
“Elections will come and go but a neighbour will always remain close to us,” he said.
Pope Raphael Otieno of Legio Maria of African Church Mission, who led hundreds of faithful in a prayer rally at the Jomo Kenyatta sports grounds in Kisumu, said only peaceful elections would ensure development in the country.
He said as a church, they would continue praying for peace even after the polls.
“We must remember that while elections come and go, our country remains and life must go on as usual.”
Similar messages of peace were issued from the pulpit in Nyeri County, with Catholic Archbishop Antony Muheria appealing to voters to conduct themselves peacefully during and after the elections. He also urged Kenyans to turn out in large numbers and vote for the leaders of their choice.
Muheria called on all voters to resist and reject any form of incitement to violence.
“Let us all be ambassadors and agents of peace; this country needs peace,” he said and asked politicians to conduct themselves with utmost sobriety to ensure that the elections were free and fair.
Muheria, who led hundreds of faithful at Our Lady of Consolata Cathedral Church in Nyeri town, urged Kenyans to preach peace and co-existence. He also conducted special peace prayers for the country.
“I urge all to vote and elect God-fearing leaders without bloodshed,” he said.
The bishop also asked those who won to celebrate with dignity and the losers to concede defeat and not fuel any violence.
In Mombasa, hundreds of faithful at the Holy Ghost Cathedral set aside yesterday afternoon to pray for peaceful elections.
Christians streamed into the church and spent three hours of prayer - from 2pm to 5pm - with Fr John Correa urging them to choose leaders wisely.
“We have dedicated this day to pray for peaceful and credible elections. I have advised Christians to choose credible leaders and not be swayed by political parties. They should look out for quality leadership and reject those giving empty promises and who lack integrity,” said the priest.
According to Fr Correa, the church has been holding prayer sessions since June.
[Mercy Kahenda, Titus Too, Peter Ochieng, Harold Odhiambo, Sarah Nyakio and Patrick Beja]