Wednesday, 12 November 2008

KENYA: Church Must Advocate for Good Governance, Church Bodies Say

LIMURU, November 7, 2008 (CISA) -Representatives from different church organisations have said that the Church has a significant role to play in advocating for good governance to alleviate the suffering of the people caused by poor governance.They called for maximum participation of all adding that it is more effective done in an ecumenical spirit.The representatives met this week from November 3 to 6 in Jumuia Centre in Limuru to deliberate on advocacy for good governance under the auspices of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA).They agreed that the socio-economic challenges facing the country and region today are due to poor governance which plays a significant factor in these challenges.“We appreciate that this forum has come at a time when Kenyans are being presented with the contentious Waki and Kriegler Reports on post-election violence. In our prophetic calling as a church, we are obliged to intervene for the oppressed as we read from prophet Jeremiah 22; 3 (King James Bible), they said.They came up with the following recommendations of achieving good governance; that a legal framework for lobbying and advocacy in Kenya should be developed, participation of the Church in legislative processes through a Parliamentary Liaison Desk be enhanced and a need for interfaith collaboration in advocacy.Other recommendations made were requirement of capacity building in lobbying and advocacy skills for strategic actors, role of media in advocacy and collaboration of all Kenyans and full participation in advocating for good governance.The organisations said, “We believe it is the duty of each one of us, Church leaders, Church organs and all advocates of justice to take up a proactive role in order to attain a well governed, just and more equitable society.”The following Church organisations were represented: Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, (CJPC) Jesuit Hakimani Centre, National Council of Churches of Kenya, (NCCK) Religious Superiors Conference of Kenya (RSCK) and Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK).

KENYA: Catholic Experts Back Cardinal’s Anti-Abortion Crusade

NAIROBI, November 4, 2008 (CISA) -Four Catholic professionals have said that making abortion legal in Kenya will have serious implications for the family, religion and society in general.Gynaecologist Dr Stephen Karanja, lawyer Richard Kakeeto, Professor Ann Muigai of Kenya Parents Caucus, and counsellor Mukami Njoroge urged Kenyans to reject the Reproductive Health and Rights Bill 2008 that is waiting to be tabled in parliament.The Catholic professionals spoke on Sunday at seminar on the issue organised by the Justice and Peace Committee of Consolata Shrine Parish in Nairobi. Cardinal John Njue, the archbishop of Nairobi, is spearheading a national campaign against the proposed legislation.“The bill is a cornerstone for making abortion legal and, therefore, it must be rejected by everybody. It encourages children from 10 years to be sexually active and to access contraceptives,” Dr Karanja said.Lawyer Kakeeto said that reproductive rights have no basis in international law, adding that there is need to create awareness on the dangers of legal abortion. He advised that the bill should not be allowed to be tabled in parliament because it could easily be politicised. He noted that the bill was drafted in New York and does not have its origin in Kenya.Prof Muigai said the proposed law has a direct impact on family, for it would challenge the authority of parents over their children. Trust between parents and children will break down as the bill emphasizes confidentiality between the healthcare worker and the child.“The bill inspires a spirit of defiance and rebellion and children can sue parents if they are denied their ‘sexual rights’,” Prof Muigai said. She added that the bill challenges the institution of marriage and demonizes pregnancy.The bill challenges religion by making it seem fanatical and old-fashioned and silently introduces homosexuality and eugenics selection of perfect humans, the so-called “intelligent people in society,” the experts observed.It will also introduce In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), “another silent holocaust” where embryos are abused, discriminated and thousands of them frozen in refrigerators. “It is a clear no to abortion; we don’t need to consider another option,” said Fr Marino Gemma, the Consolata parish priest, referring to Cardinal Njue’s recent pastoral letter on the subject.He Catholic Church and Muslims have expressed vehement opposition to the bill,which is sponsored by Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and the Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW). The church is collecting signatures against the bill from around the country to be presented to the government.

KENYA: Diocese Appeals for Food Relief as Famine Worsens

ISIOLO, October 21, 2008 (CISA) -In parts of Isiolo Catholic Diocese, people hit by famine have resorted to eating wild fruits which take up to 12 hours to cook.This is happening in Daaba area, following prolonged drought in the semi-arid diocese in Eastern Province.The diocesan Development Coordinator, Stephen Olate, told CISA that the most desperate areas are Merti and Sericho divisions.He said children under the age of five, pregnant mothers and the sick are most vulnerable to the food shortage.Strategic rangelands and boreholes to which the community resorts to support the livestock are of little help because it has not rained since March.“The people have started moving to neighbouring districts in search of food and pasture, causing conflicts over scarce resources,” he said. Olate said three weeks ago some people were killed in Koom.The government’s emergency food programmes reaches only about 30 per cent of those who need relief.Olate said his diocese was appealing to the government and donors to respond adequately and not to “wait until the situation gets out of hand like it happened in 2005 and 2006.” Over 5 million Kenyans are facing famine.Some 80 per cent of the people of Isiolo are pastoralists. According to 2006 statistics, the diocese has a total population of 116,000, including 27,000 Catholics.

KENYA: Thugs Posing as Police Grab Money for Parish Car

KITALE, October 7, 2008 (CISA) -Thugs masquerading as policemen broke into the father’s house in a Catholic parish in north-western Kenya made away with KSh 100,000 that had been raised to buy a parish car.Bishop of Kitale Diocese, Maurice Crowley, six men in police gear entered Kiminini Catholic Parish early on Sunday night and broke into the house of Fr Francis Opondo. They ordered everyone to lie down. “One man who tired to resist was clobbered on the head,” the bishop said.The thugs harassed the priest and others in the house demanding the money that had been collected at a fundraiser earlier in the day.The bishop said the local chief and the police are carrying out investigations. But no one has been arrested in connection with the incident. “It is the third time the mission has been broken into in the recent years,” Bishop Crowley said.Kiminini Parish, dedicated to St Peter Claver, was founded in 1945. It has a population of 40,000 and 17, 000 of whom are Catholic, according to figures published in 2006.

KENYA: Catholic University Urges States to Help Poor Youth

NAIROBI, October 3, 2008 (CISA) -Kenyan and other African governments should consider providing loans that will fully cover essential needs of NEEDY students at universities, the chancellor of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) has said.Malawian Bishop Tarcisio Ziyaye said accessing university education remained a key challenge for young people from poor families.“I request the Kenyan government and all other African governments to consider funding loan schemes that will fully cover the essential needs of students at universities,” Bishop Ziyaye said.While appreciating the higher education loans scheme already in place in Kenya, the bishop said “more can still be done to give greater peace of mind to the beneficiaries of these loans.” He also thanked companies and other organisations that support students at the university.Bishop Ziyaye was speaking on Friday during CUEA’s 23rd graduation ceremony in Nairobi. A total of 1,441 students received degrees and diplomas. Prime Minister Raila Odinga was the chief guest.The chancellor said he was grateful to the Government of Kenya for its support of the university since it was founded 24 years ago. “We in the church always count on government support as a major partner in the provision of higher education.”Addressing the new graduates, he said the education they had received prepared them to serve anywhere in the world, but they should consider serving countries first. “Let your country be your homepage. Africa cannot develop without you. Africa needs you. Therefore devote your youthful expertise in serving the motherland.”The fresh graduates should not just be job seekers but also agents of change by sharing their knowledge and time with others.On his part Prime Minister Odinga assured of the governement’s commitment to higher education. “The coalition government is committed to expansion and improvement of university education and to make it accessible and affordable to everyone irrespective of their social status.” The government, he further pledged, will invest more money in research.Bishop Ziyaye announced that CUEA’s silver jubilee will commence on February 9, 2009. The university started as a graduate school of theology known as the Catholic Higher Institute of Eastern Africa (CHIEA) in 1984, founded by the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA).

KENYA: HIV/Aids Book for Primary School Children Launched

NAIROBI, September 26, 2008 (CISA) -A 12-book series on HIV/Aids for upper primary school children was launched yesterday during the ongoing 11th Nairobi International Book Fair.The book is recommended for children in classes 5 to 8 and was launched by the managing director of Daisy Creative Publishers, Cheryl de Souza.The series is designed to develop life skills among upper primary pupils to enable them understand the dangers of HIV/Aids, avoid contraction, prevent stigma and promote positive social/cultural values and discrimination of those with the disease.It is prepared in a set of twelve titles, each covering one of the following themes: risky behaviour, spread of HIV/Aids, peer influence and HIV/aids, myths and misconceptions about HIV/Aids, cultural/traditional practices and HIV/Aids and moral and religious values.Other themes are prevention of HIV/Aids, care and support of the infected and affected, stigma and discrimination and social and economic effects of HIV/Aids.Souza said, “These series are intended to promote abstinence, uphold values and education, build responsibility, avoid early marriages, create support and love for the infected and encourage debate, drama, art crafts and quizzes on HIV/Aids.”“We feel that children from 10 to 15 are still protected and we want to keep it that way,” she said.The series, originally published in Uganda by Baroque Publishers Limited Jasper will be available in all leading bookshops from November 1, 2008 at a cost of Kshs 140 each or US$ 2.

KENYA: Catholic University’s Otunga Award Seeks More Funds

NAIROBI, September 26, 2008 (CISA) -The Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) is seeking more funds to help bright but needy students under a scholarship project dedicated to the former archbishop of Nairobi, the late Maurice Michael Cardinal Otunga.The Cardinal Otunga Scholarship (COS) fundraising dinner will be held on October 1 at the Panafric Hotel at 6.30 pm.The cardinal died in 2003 and the archdiocese of Nairobi has signaled intention to open the cause for his beatification. His tomb at the Resurrection Garden retreat centre continues to draw thousands of Kenyans touched by his legendary humility, steadfastness in the faith and statesmanship.“In the life of Maurice Michael Cardinal Otunga, there are several remarkable things he did, actions he championed and decisions he made that call his admirers to search for ways and means of perpetuating what he stood for,” said CUEA vice chancellor Prof John Maviiri.Explaining the scholarship, Prof Maviiri said “the initiative is in recognition and appreciation of the cardinal’s dedication to conquer ignorance and give quality education to the needy but deserving students.”Cardinal Otunga was instrumental in the founding of CUEA in 1984. The university has grown from the initial 21 students to over 5,000, pursuing courses in commerce, education, law, social sciences and theology.Under the Otunga project, the university has so far granted scholarships worth KSh 900,000 to 18 beneficiaries. The university wants to expand the scholarship to Ksh 50 million.Prof Maviiri appealed to well wishers to support the initiative.Contact CUEA: P.O. Box 62157 00200 Nairobi Kenya, Tel: +254 20 890095 Fax: +254 20 891261 or Email:

KENYA: Catholic Festival Focuses on Media as ‘Third Parent’

NAIROBI, September 12, 2008 (CISA) -At least 10 Catholic schools turned up for the first ever Catholic Media Festival which was inaugurated today at the Consolata Shrine Parish in Westlands, Nairobi at 9.30am.The three-day festival was launched by Fr Vincent Wambugu, the Secretary General of the Kenya Episcopal Conference (KEC).“This is a very great event because it is the first one of its kind. I would like to also appreciate the theme, ‘Media, the Third Parent,’” Fr Wambugu said.The Church, he said, valued that role of the media. “We shall not gag the media but ask for responsibility”.Catholic media houses participating in the festival include CISA, The Seed magazine, Paulines Publications, New People magazine, Ukweli Video Productions, the National Mirror magazine, Bosco East Africa Media Services, Radio Waumini and Messenger of Mary magazine.Friday was reserved for primary school children. They participated in colouring, writing and story reading competitions. The children presented songs, dances, poems and choral verses.The schools that participated in the event were: Blessed Sacrament Buruburu, Holy Trinity Buruburu, Parochial Catholic School, Loreto Valley Road, Loreto Convent Msongari, Consolata Primary, Urafiki Carovana Primary School, Jomico Academy, Blessed Brains Academy and Divine Mercy Junior Academy.Saturday features secondary schools. The festival concludes on Sunday with a day for family and youth.

KENYA: International Christian Youth Meeting to be Held in November

NAIROBI, September 5, 2008 (CISA) -Thousands of young people from East Africa and abroad are expected in Nairobi for a 5-day meeting from November 26 to 30 to pray together and learn about different people and cultures.The theme of the meeting is, “Together, seeking paths of hope.” The event is organized by brothers from the Taize community and it will take place at Mji wa Furaha in Ruaraka. Participants will be accommodated by families within the local churches.Young people from parishes in the Kenyan capital will look out for host families and prepare the morning program.Thereafter they, together with their guests will participate in the youth meeting every afternoon at Queen of Apostles, Ruaraka.Common transport will be organized from each host parish and midday and evening meals will be provided. Those interested in attending the youth meeting can register through their local parish or chaplaincy.Youth expected to participate are from 18 to 30 years of age. Final registration date is October 15. Participants from Nairobi and its surrounding areas are expected to contribute Kshs 150 to 500 towards the costs.Taize is an ecumenical community founded in 1940 by Brother Roger in the village of Taize, France. The community comprises of a hundred brothers from more than 25 countries.The community’s aim is to reconcile and bring about peace. Every week, throughout the year, the youth are welcomed at Taize and called to be witnesses of peace and reconciliation.For more information contact: Brothers from Taize, Mjiwa Furaha, Tel: 0720132017 or Email: or visit:

KENYA: Muslims Asked to Exercise Tolerance During Ramadhan

NAIROBI, September 2, 2008 (CISA) -Kenyan Muslims started marking the Holy Month of Ramadhan on Monday.Chief Kadhi Sheikh Hammad Kassim announced the sighting of the moon to mark the start of the season.President Mwai Kibaki sent Mulsims a message of goodwill and called for religious tolerance between Kenya's different faiths.This year's announcement of the onset of Ramadhan was without controversy in what is believed to be efficient transmission of information that include the use of FM stations and text messages.Sheikh Kassim said he would have made the announcement earlier had it not been for the fact that faithful jammed his phone trying to confirm the start of the fast.Ramadhan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is considered to be one of the holiest months of the year.The holy season begins with the sighting of the crescent moon on the evening following the new moon and lasts 29 or 30 days, depending on the lunar cycle.According to the Koran, Muslims are required to start the fast only after seeing the new moon. Idd-ul-Fitr marks the end of the month of fasting and is marked by feasting and celebration.

KENYA: Special Attention to Women Sought in Truth Commission

NAIROBI, August 29, 2008 (CISA) -A civil society organisation is calling for adequate attention to women in the proposed law that would establish a truth, justice and reconciliation commission to deal with the Kenya’s past injustices.The Kenya section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-Kenya) expressed dissatisfaction with certain aspects of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission Bill 2008 that was published by the government and is due for debate in parliament.The TJRC Bill 2008 intends to establish accurate, complete and historical records of violations and abuses of human rights and economic rights inflicted on Kenyans by the state, public institutions and holders of public office from Independence on December 12, 1963 to February 28, 2008.Establishment of the TJRC was one of the resolutions of the National Accord brokered by Koffi Annan to end the political crisis that followed last year’s disputed presidential election.During a public forum in Nairobi on Thursday, Priscilla Nyokabi, a programme officer at ICJ-Kenya, reviewed the TJRC Bill 2008 with reference to emerging gender concerns.Nyokabi said that a strategy needs to be created for the way forward to anchor gender issues in the TJRC Bill which contains gender gaps like lack of gender balance in appointment of commissioners and staffing.She recommended creation of a gender unit within the TJRC consisting of gender experts and the creation of reparation schemes with adequate funds to cater for all aspects of dealing with gender-based violence like counseling, education for victims and reparations.The commission should also be enabled to actively seek out victims of violence and ensure they are not locked out. Nyokabi also called for expansion of the time frame of the envisaged commission from two to five years.There should be enough publicity and education of Kenyans on reparation schemes. Nyokabi, however, expressed fears that the present system of law is corrupt and would could impede the truth-seeking process.Critics said that Kenya is notorious for forming commissions and making laws that are never acted upon and proposed that the previous commissions be implemented to pave way for a success in the TJRC.

KENYA: Christian Concert Brings Out the Best in City Youth

NAIROBI, August 26, 2008 (CISA) -Hundreds of youth from some 13 mainly Catholic churches in the Kenyan capital showcased their talents in gospel music and other performing arts during an annual daylong concert on Saturday.The theme of this year’s concert, christened Consofeste, was: ‘We are one in the spirit.’ The event, at the University of Nairobi, was partly sponsored by The Seed magazine, Kenya’s leading Catholic monthly published by Consolata Fathers and which is celebrating its 20th anniversary.Holy Trinity Catholic Church Buruburu scooped the first overall prize for best performance. They presented skits, poems and traditional and modern dances. They took home a trophy and Sh.7,000.The Coptic Orthodox Church took the second position for which they got a trophy and Sh. 5,000. The third position was taken by Lexani Youth of Consolata Parish, who also received a trophy and Sh. 3,000.Over 300 youth attended and presented skits, R & B gospel, Rap, Hip Hop, western and traditional dances, poems and instrumentals. The festival was also graced by three young Kenyan musicians.“Compared to last year, this year’s show was a bomb: bigger and better. And that is why we changed the venue from Consolata where it was last year to Nairobi University,” said Bidel Mussoko one of the organizers from the Consolata youth.Speaking at the close of the event Fr. Vincent Wambugu, secretary general of the Kenya Episcopal Conference (KEC), advised the youth to uphold morals as they are “the leaders of tomorrow”. They should continue with the good work of praising God through music.Consofeste is an annual event intended to promote youth talent. It was started in 1997.

KENYA: State Raises Red Flag over Spreading Pornography

NAIROBI, August 22, 2008 (CISA) -The government is on the warpath against the growing consumption of explicit films in this largely Christian nation.Unlicensed video halls have mushroomed in towns around the country in recent years. Many of them show pornographic films. Concern has also been voiced over the emergence of strip clubs especially in the Kenyan capital.In a public notice, the Kenya Film Censorship Board issued a two-week notice to all video and cinema operators who have not complied with the Films and Stage Act Cap 222 of the Laws of Kenya and the penal code to do so.The government warned that those involved in the sale, hire, exhibition and trafficking of pornographic materials in the country will be prosecuted.It is a criminal offense to display or to distribute sell, hire and exhibit pornographic materials or exhibit unclassified movies and posters.The law also stipulates that operating without valid license from Kenya Film Censorship Board, exhibiting, selling and hiring audio-visual materials without classification labels or stickers and publicly exhibiting any cinematograph films of indecent nature that tend to corrupt morals is an offense.The government assured the public that it will conduct regular spot-checks to stamp out pornography and check on those premises that do no have valid licenses from the board.It also discouraged members of the public from buying, hiring or viewing unclassified or pornographic videos to enable the Board fight the vice for the common good of Kenyans.Members of the public should report any incidents of sale, hire, distribution or exhibition of pornographic materials to the Board or a police station.

KENYA: Nation Marks 30 Years of First President’s Death

NAIROBI, August 22, 2008 (CISA) -A memorial mass for Kenya’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta who died 30 years ago was held at the Holy Family Basilica cathedral in Nairobi on Friday.The Auxiliary Bishop of Nairobi, David Kamau, celebrated the mass, which was attended by among others the Kenyatta family and President Mwai Kibaki.Bishop Kamau said that President Kenyatta united Kenyans, and so they should endeavour to fight corruption and tribalism and maintain peace. President Mwai Kibaki laid a wreath at the mausoleum of the late president.The founding president was educated by missionaries and helped translate the New Testament into Kikuyu language. Kenyatta joined nationalist politics in the 1920’s and dabbled in journalism.He gained international fame with the publication of ‘Facing Mount Kenya,’ an anthropological study of Kikuyu culture, and critique of British cultural domination.15-year ruleOn becoming Prime Minister at Independence in 1963, he wielded power with gusto and is said to have whipped Cabinet Ministers and state officials who crossed his path.His 15-year rule was characterised by the entrenchment of ethnic bigotry, political patronage and impunity, assassinations, the detention without trail of dissidents and massive illegal allocation of public land to relatives and cronies.Many commentators trace to the Kenyatta years the roots of present-day national problems such widespread poverty, skewed allocation of national resources, endemic corruption, poor public service delivery and the political manipulation of ethnicity to acquire and retain power.He died on August 22, 1978. His youngest son, Uhuru, a presidential candidate in 2002, is now Deputy Prime Minister.“His death was sudden, unexpected and shocked all of us,” one of Kenyatta’s nurses who was present at his death told the Standard newspaper.Meanwhile, a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Nairobi was buried on Thursday. Fr Samuel Mbugua Ng’ang’a of Ting’ang’a Parish in Kiambu District died a week ago. He was 57.The requiem mass was celebrated at Holy Family Basilica by John Cardinal Njue. Fr Ng’ang’a was born in 1951 in Githunguri Division, Kiambu and was ordained on February 11, 1979.A nun from the Daughters of St Paul congregation who knew him, Sr Mary Kimani, said that Fr Ng’ng’a was a hardworking priest. “He was always available to his Christians when he was in our parish at Mutomo.”

KENYA: Assumption Sisters Celebrate New Professions and Jubilees

THIKA, August 15, 2008 (CISA) -Six nuns belonging to the Assumption Sisters of Nairobi made their final profession as seven others celebrated their silver jubilee at the Uzima Centre in Thika.The celebration to mark the feast of the Assumption of Mary was presided over by Fr Francis Gachinga of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. The newly professed were Veronica Nthenya, Bernadette Muthina, Felister Kirigha, Catherine Kinyua, Glady’s Chepkemoi and Mary Muli.The sisters expressed joy at their profession. Sr Felista Kirigha said, “I am so excited today it is like the heavens have opened for me.”Sr Jane Ndemenge 25 years in religious life said, “It feels great and exciting today to have come all this way, but I owe this to God. Sr Jane, a teacher, is the principle of Madaraka Girls Primary school one of the best school’s in Thika.“By the grace of God I started this journey in January 1980. I made my first commitment on December 27, 1982. I made my final commitment on December 15, 1991. Since that time I have continued to serve the Lord. I have no regrets to make.Other sisters celebrating their jubilees were Bernedette Munyao, Veronica Thiga, Consolata Banda, Anastasia Waithira, Agnes Mwongela and Christine Kagunye.The congregation also launched their first music CD. Assumption Sisters of Nairobi were founded in 1955.

AFRICA: Christian Aid Launches Food Crisis Appeal for Continent

LONDON, August 8, 2008 (CISA) -The UK-based international development agency Christian Aid has launched an emergency appeal to support the millions of people going hungry across Africa in the face of escalating food prices.Most African countries are not self-sufficient in food and are now being hit by massive price hikes so that once cheap imports are unaffordable. In the first three months of this year, all major foodstuffs hit their highest prices in real terms for nearly 30 years, according the World Food Programme (WFP).Ethiopia is facing a potential catastrophe with 126,000 children in immediate danger of death and a further six million at risk of malnutrition, according to the UN. Kenya has seen price hikes of 50 per cent in six months.In Burkina Faso, almost a quarter of children under five are emaciated and half a million people are dependent on WFP handouts. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, families are forced to skip meals."Christian Aid is doing everything we can to help – but we want to do more," says Nick Guttmann, head of Christian Aid’s humanitarian division. "We are urging people in Britain, the churches and religious groups to help us increase our support to those most vulnerable to this crisis."With more cash, we can further develop work with our local African partner agencies, distributing seeds and livestock and helping communities improve their agricultural productivity to reduce their dependence on highly priced imported foods."Christian Aid said the crisis had been caused in part by "ruinous" trade liberalisation policies forced on poor countries by donor nations and international financial institutions.In return for trade and aid, poor countries have had to remove protective tariffs from agricultural produce, leaving markets open to heavily subsidised imports from richer nations, which have driven local producers out of business. Global food price rises have as a result forced up the price of imports.In recent years, there has also been chronic under investment in food production in poorer countries, and a greater emphasis on cash crops such as flowers, tobacco and bio-fuels, whilst climate change and rising fuel prices have pushed up the cost of fertilised, seeds, pump irrigation and other agricultural necessities.Christian Aid said it would work on the ground with those most affected across Africa, as well as continue campaigning for changes to the trading structures that impoverish people, and for governments to address climate change.

KENYA: Church AIDS Programme Heads Agree Infection Rising

NAIROBI, August 5, 2008 (CISA) -Some Catholic officials working in HIV/AIDS programmes have backed government statistics showing that the infection rate is on the rise.The 2008 Kenya Aids Indicator Survey published last week indicated that HIV infection stands at 7.3 percent, up from 6.7 percent in 2003. Some 1.4 million people are living with the virus, 83 per cent of them unaware of their status.The HIV/AIDS coordinator in Homa Bay Diocese in Nyanza Province, Fr Emilio Barrlliana, told CISA that last month they conducted Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) in one village and out of a hundred people tested, 51 of them were positive.The infection rates in Nyanza and Nairobi are the highest at 15.3 percent, according to the government survey.Fr Barrlliana said that so far, there are 3,000 people awaiting treatment with 2,000 already on treatment.In Kitui Diocese in eastern Kenya, Vivian Mlonzia said that the HIV infection rate is on the increase mainly because there is no significant change in individual sexual behaviour. She attributed this to availability of Anti-retrovirals (ARVs) drugs.Carol Wandi, who works with HIV/Aids Programme for Kitale Diocese in western Kenya, also said that the prevalence of the virus was on the rise.The Catholic Church launched a National HIV/AIDS Policy last year.Kenya has climbed down from the list of most successful countries in Africa in controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS, according to the UNAids 2008 report.

KENYA: Veteran Catholic Missionary at the Coast is Buried

MOMBASA August 1, 2008 (CISA) -One of the longest-serving Catholic missionaries here on the Indian Ocean coast, Fr Tom Barron, was buried Friday at the Holy Ghost Cathedral Parish.The 76-year-old Holy Ghost missionary from Ireland died on Friday, July 25, at a home for the aged. He had served the Catholic Church in Mombasa for 46 years.Moments before he passed away, Fr. Barron told Fr. Joachim Minja who anointed him: “Tell the archbishop to take care of the diocese. Thank the people of Mombasa for allowing me to stay here.”The requiem mass was celebrated by Fr Sean McGovern, the local superior of the Holy Ghost Fathers in Kenya, who described his late confrere as “a humble, brave and courageous priest.”Fr Barron was born on November 14, 1931, in Ireland, and was ordained a priest on July 10, 1960. He arrived in the Archdiocese of Mombasa in 1962. He worked in the diocesan administration as a procurator and secretary.From 1973 to 1988, he was the vicar-general and later worked in Utange and Shanzu parishes where he built a house for father in charge and a convent in 1979.In 1984, he worked at Holy Ghost cathedral and in 1989 at Mikindani parish.

KENYA: State Set to Improve Reproductive Health Services

NAIROBI, July 29, 2008 (CISA) -The government will embark on improving reproductive health services around the country, according a new policy which was launched recently.But the policy states that reproductive health rights must be enjoyed “within the context of the law.”Some non-governmental organizations are agitating for inclusion of abortion on demand among reproductive health rights. Abortion is illegal in the country, except in limited circumstances.The priority areas of the new policy are safe motherhood, maternal and neonatal health, sexually transmitted infections and family planning. Other areas are adolescent reproductive health, gender and reproductive rights, infertility and the reproductive health needs of the elderly.The government will ensure that all women, including adolescents and youth, have access to reproductive health information, counseling and other services. It will also ensure that all pregnant women, the poor and the ‘hard-to-reach’ have access to skilled care.Other action points of the new policy include integrating HIV/AIDS information and services into all reproductive health services at all levels, enhancing community awareness on impacts of Reproductive Tract Infections on women and men, encouraging research and information generation and ensuring control of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s) prevention and control.The government will also promote and create awareness on the elimination of all forms of violence and discrimination against elderly persons and increase availability of quality services for prevention of cancers of the reproductive organs.The new policy provides for ensuring access to rehabilitative services for those affected by harmful practices and gender-based violence and promoting empowerment of women in reproductive health decision-making.During the launch of the document, Dr Josephine Kibaru, Head of the Division for Reproductive Health, said, “Reproductive health is one of the most neglected programmes in country and there is inadequate information on sexual and reproductive health issues.”

KENYA: Marriage Encounter Movement to Mark 30th Birthday

NAIROBI, July 15, 2008 (CISA) -The worldwide Marriage Encounter Movement will next month hold a convention to mark its 30th anniversary in Kenya.The event, from August 8 to 10, will be held at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) in Nairobi.Organisers say the movement will commemorate 30 years of God’s amazing love since its introduction in Kenya by the late archbishop of Nairobi, Cardinal Maurice Otunga.Marriage Encounter assists couples, priests and religious to live out the sacraments of matrimony and holy orders through formation in values.Members take part in special ‘encounter weekends’ and learn through community support and enrichment programmes.The ‘encounter weekends’ encourage communication between spouses to rediscover each other. Spouses focus on their relationship for an entire weekend, from Friday night to Sunday afternoon.Officials say marriage encounter has been introduced in 16 dioceses in Kenya.