Kenyan Religious Leaders Commit to Constitutional Reform based on Rule of Law and Economic Development at Acton Institute Conference


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., (February 20, 2003) — In a historic gathering of Kenya’s religious leadership, church officials voiced strong support for free-market economic policies and lent their moral authority to the Kenyan government’s battle against entrenched corruption and violations of human rights.

The Feb. 13-16 conference of Kenyan church leaders at Vanenburg Castle in The Netherlands was organized by The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. Acton provided a broad program of lectures and discussions on constitutional law, ethics and economics, globalization and public education. In all, 12 religious leaders representing 14 million Kenyan Christians were in attendance. Major Kenyan denominations were present, including Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian and independent churches.

Bishop Bernard Njoroge Kariuki of Nairobi, the General Secretary of the Episcopal Church of Africa, called on his nation’s religious leadership to play a crucial role in transmitting basic values of freedom and dignity as Kenya reforms its politics and economic system. “Only in this way can society find meaning,” he said. “Perhaps we can be a role model for Africa.”

In late December, Kenya’s National Rainbow Coalition won a landslide general election victory based on an anti-corruption platform and the promise of a new constitution. President Mwai Kibaki told the Kenyan Parliament on Feb. 18 that “corruption has undermined our economy, our politics and our national psyche.”

The Acton conference was led by Rev. Robert Sirico, co-founder and president; Samuel Gregg, director of the Center for Economic Personalism; and Rev. Jerry Zandstra, director of programs. Zandstra testified before the Kenyan Constitutional Commission last year and has worked closely with the religious leadership in that country. He expects to return to Kenya in the near future to help church leaders craft a joint declaration affirming human rights, property rights and economic independence from international organizations and the national government. While the Acton Institute has assisted the Kenyans with advice and education, Zandstra said it is important that the development of religious liberty, economic freedom and personal moral responsibility be embraced by Kenyans themselves.

“Kenya’s church leaders will promote work, virtue and freedom,” Zandstra said. “They are anxious to change their country and get out from underneath foreign debt and dependence. And they must maintain their prophetic voice, which we are helping them to find.”

Photos from the conference are available from Acton for members of the media.

About the Acton Institute
With its commitment to pursue a society that is free and virtuous, the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty is a leading voice in the national environmental and social policy debate. The Acton Institute is uniquely positioned to comment on the sound economic and moral foundations necessary to sustain humane environmental and social policies.

The Acton Institute is a nonprofit, ecumenical think tank located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Institute works internationally to "promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles." For more on the Acton Institute, please visit www.acton.org.

Interviews with Institute staff may be arranged by contacting John Couretas at (616) 454-3080 or at jcouretas@acton.org.