International Religious Freedom Day 2019.

On a clear Tuesday afternoon, November 29th, as we stood at the American Center located within the US Embassy in Nairobi, Bishop Alfred Rotich towered above us as we took in our new environment. Young professionals and students from varied fields and faiths sat patiently conversing in low tones as they waited eagerly for the main speaker, Bishop Rotich. Rotich was ordained priest on November 1983 at Nakuru. Appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Nairobi in 1996 and had served as Military Chaplain from 1989 to 1993 and as a Major from 1994 until he became a bishop and his rank rose from major to Colonel to become a bishop of the military. In his journey he had encountered and addressed many issues of inter-religious concern, so it made sense that he would be the main speaker on International Religious Freedom Day.

 International Religious Freedom Day, is about highlighting the importance of religious freedom in all aspects which is essential in any country’s development agenda. Religious freedom is a fundamental human right, and everyone should be able to observe their ‘worship’ freely. When this is observed then there is inclusive development and progression in a country. In Kenya we have experienced violence and extremists arising due to differences in religious beliefs; unidentified gunmen killed 67 people in Nairobi Westgate Mall, more than 60 people were killed in attacks in Mpeketoni, gunmen stormed the Garissa University College and recently armed gunmen attacked Dusit Hotel.

Bishop Alfred Rotich as he addressed the young professionals

 IRCK in partnership with the US embassy has conducted several Interfaith youth dialogues; from issues of interfaith dialogue, security, tribe 254 to radicalization. Youths from different faiths sit together and address issues of common concern to them. The recent dialogue under the Building Interfaith Bridges initiative was in Kiamaiko (https://dialoguediariez.home.blog/2019/10/14/kiamaiko-calming-the-tensions/?fbclid=IwAR2r3DhJmM9uQZCbqVPZC6BCWKwyn_JalJIrjvxH8f-DMXrAvIkpu5jsinc).

“To love you have to search the heart of God. Before we were a Muslim, Hindu or a Christian we were the image of God. When you look at the person next to you, it’s God’s image that you see. It is through focusing on what makes us human that we can really tackle the issues of peace and tolerance’, Bishop Rotich

“To love you have to search the heart of God. Before we were a Muslim, Hindu or a Christian we were the image of God. When you look at the person next to you, it’s God’s image that you see. It is through focusing on what makes us human that we can really tackle the issues of peace and tolerance’, Bishop Rotich. The Bishop kept the audience glued to his every word as he narrated his works in the areas of inter-religion. The bishop added that you need to practice Recognize, Respect and Promote. Firstly you have to recognize each other’s faith, you have to recognize the differences that arise as people who worship differently and at the same time recognize that you are all created in Gods image. Also it’s about realizing that God is love thus we shouldn’t spoil the face of God. To recognize you need to listen and at the same time have an open heart and mind. Then respect the differences and embrace the similarities after that promote. In promoting you are capable of being inclusive therefore handling any issues that are facing the nation as one and addressing them through dialogues.

Group Picture with the young proffessionals

“A government can never reach its full potential if individuals within its borders are marginalized or oppressed. Only by fully embracing and protecting religious freedom can countries achieve their economic aspirations, ensure security, and eradicate terrorism.”(Michael R. Pompeo, US Secretary of State).

Bishop Alfred Rotich as he shakes hands with our host Christopher from the US Embassy

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