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Joint Pastoral Letter of the Archbishop, Bishops and Prefects Apostolic of Kenya

Joint Pastoral Letter of the Archbishop, Bishops and Prefects Apostolic of Kenya


The occasion of this letter is the independence of Kenya which is close at hand. Its purpose is to provide a Christian understanding of the rights and duties of the individual, the family and the community [1 - 6].


  1. As great changes are at hand, many people of this country are beset with doubts and anxieties and look for guidance. It is because of the importance of the present moment that we, the Catholic Archbishop, Bishops and Prefects Apostolic of Kenya, have thought it opportune to explain to all people of goodwill, the principles and rules that lead to happiness, peace and prosperity for the individual, for the family and for the community. For we desire nothing better than that the people of Kenya should be independent, united, prosperous and happy

  2. The rights and duties of the individual, of the family and of the community are contained in the natural and revealed laws of God. The happiness of the individual and the family and the welfare of the community depend upon the recognition of man's inescapable submission to these laws.

  3. God created everything: inanimate matter, plants, animals and finally man. As a wise Creator, God also made eternal and unalterable laws binding on all created things; such laws, for example, control the movements of the earth, of the moon and planets.

  4. The innate urge of living things to protect themselves and to multiply themselves is another example of these laws. These laws, written into the very nature of created things, tell us of the order and beauty which God wishes to be found in the world. We call these laws the physical laws of nature which bind , all creatures.

  5. But for man, who received intellect and free will from God, the Creator made a law which tells man how to make use of his liberty. This law is called the Moral Law which is summed up and perfected in the revealed Ten Commandments. The fundamental rules of the natural moral law are also known by those who never heard of the Word of God, for this law is written in the heart of man.

  6. History and experience tell us that wealth alone does not make a man happy and that material progress alone does not yet make a nation prosperous and great. A happy man is one who freely uses wealth and health according to the laws laid down by God. A community, too, will be great and prosperous when the individual and the family are allowed freely to develop their own lives according to the rules of God. The key, therefore, to the problem of the happiness of the individual, of the family and of the community lies in a right understanding of the rights and duties of the individual, of the family and of the community.

  7. Part I. The Individual


  8. You all know that God created man in His image and likeness and placed him lord of all created things of this world. By a lawful use of all the things he finds in the world, man should understand how good, wise and all-powerful must be the Creator. This understanding in turn should lead man to love his divine benefactor and express his love in deeds, by keeping God's commandments:

  9. "The man who loves me is the man who keeps the commandments he has from me" (John 14: 21). Man, therefore, is made to love and serve God here on earth and to be happy with Him forever hereafter.

  10. Of all visible creatures, only man is endowed with reason and free-will. Consequently man can choose from among the goods of this world those which he thinks most expedient and effective for the purpose of life. Man has therefore an inviolable right to those things which are indispensable for this purpose. But just because each man personally and freely directs his life in the light of his reason, he must render a personal account to God of the use or misuse he has made of the things put at his disposal. Man, therefore, has not only rights but also duties. These duties tell a man that whatever he does, he should do it in accordance with the laws or commandments of God. Among the rights of each man we wish to single out the following:

  11. The right to life and bodily integrity,

  12. The right to the necessities of life and to decent living,

  13. The right to worship God, i.e., to profess and practise religion,

  14. The right to private property and private ownership,

  15. The right to marriage and to family life,

  16. The right to educate his children according to the dictates of his conscience,

  17. The right to form associations with his fellow-men,

  18. All men possess these basic human rights. All are explicitly recognised in the Charter of Human Rights of the United Nations Organisation.

  19. The human race is one. The fact of its oneness is not altered by any secondary differences in the various families that compose the human race. The whole human race has the same origin, the same nature, the same basic rights and duties and the same destiny. The whole of mankind is united by the common fatherhood of God and by a common brotherhood in Christ.

  20. We wish to make it clear that we recall this truth of the essential oneness of the human family for the benefit of all sections of the community, and we appeal to all to think, speak and act in conformity with this truth, and not to be influenced by paying undue attention to accidental differences within the human family.

  21. All men indeed do not possess the same gifts nor talents; nor does life offer each the same opportunities. But this inequality of gifts and of opportunity has nothing to do with race. For all citizens are entitled to develop a full civic, social and intellectual life.

  22. We wish to emphasise that it is definitely against natural justice and Christian brotherly love to discriminate between members of the different races and tribes. Such racial or tribal discrimination is particularly harmful in this country where members of different races and tribes live side by side. Discrimination or segregation based on race, colour or creed in whatever form and by whomsoever practised has always been condemned by the Church. Nothing but evil can be the fruit of racial or tribal discrimination, a practice contrary to both justice and Brotherly Love.

  23. Women, no less than men, are endowed with intellect and free-will by God Himself. They too, therefore, have the same basic rights and duties as men. Just as a boy has a right to education and training which will help him to be a good father and husband, so the girl, too, has a right to such training as will help her to be a good mother and wife. Any custom or laws which are degrading to women or which deny the girls these rights are contrary to the Will of God, a real threat to a happy family life, and a serious hindrance to the cultural progress of the community.

  24. Man is not only an individual with his own rights and obligations; he is by nature a social being. This means that man cannot live and perfect himself except by living and working with his fellow men.

  25. Man cannot live in society or freely enjoy his rights unless he accomplishes his duty towards society and respects the rights of his fellow-men. Thus, if a man fails to do his duty or neglects to respect the rights of others, he may be compelled to do so by society acting through its lawfully established courts of justice. It is the duty of properly constituted authority to regulate the use of human rights so as to protect the rights of the individual, the family and the whole community; it may never arbitrarily take away or withhold the basic rights which every human being enjoys, no matter what the person's social, economic or educational standing happens to be.

  26. As well as claiming rights, men must accept and fulfil their duties. Unfortunately, there is sometimes too much emphasis laid on rights and too little on duties. One of the primary duties of every man is to exercise the virtue of justice, which means respect for the rights of others. There is the further duty of every man to love all other men. This duty is part of the first and most important commandment given to us by Our Lord Jesus Christ: "I have a new commandment to give you that you are to love one another; that your love for one another is to be like the love I have borne you. The mark by which all men will know you for my disciples will be the love you bear one another" (John 13:34-35). This brotherly love consists in wishing our fellow-men well and in taking a genuine and active interest in their material and spiritual welfare. Brotherly love is violated by those who, in their political, social or professional activities, aim at the welfare of their own section of the community with little or no regard for the welfare of other groups. We warn all against the snares of those who preach hatred and contempt of others under the guise of championing the rights of their own group.

  27. Part II: The Family


  28. Every individual is free to remain unmarried or to enter the bond of marriage which is the normal state of life for most men and women. The purpose of marriage is to bring forth and educate children and to be happy together by mutual love and help. The family, father, mother and the children, forms a real society with its own rights and duties. For example, the family has a right to its own stability required for the due upbringing of the children. Indissolubility of marriage is the guarantee of this stability; facilities for and frequency of divorce are its worst enemies. No human agent may interfere or set limits to the number of children parents wish to have. They cannot be urged to limit their family because of any social conditions; rather conditions should positively be created which will enable them to fulfil their destiny before God. Overpopulation is a bogus argument in favour of limitation of the family. The wealthy and prosperous nations of today doubled and even tripled their populations during the period they grew wealthy and prosperous.

  29. Another important right and duty of the family is to provide for the bodily welfare of the children. Those who with God gave life to the children have the right and the duty to foster and develop that God-given life. No one may rob the parents of this right, and nobody can take over that duty. Nature itself demands that a father, as head of a family, take care of the bodily welfare of his children and provide them with the things needed now and in the future so that they may be kept from want and misery. If the families are hindered rather than protected by the laws of a State, then such laws would indeed be bad laws.

  30. Last but not least, parents have the sacred right and duty to educate their children for life. This obligation, and, consequently the right to educate, comes to the parents directly from God and is inviolable. For, if it is true that the child belongs in the first place to its Creator, it is no less true that it belongs in the second place to those through whom God gave life to the child, namely, the parents. The parents alone are charged by God to educate their children for life. Teachers are only the helpers of the parents when the child is at school.

  31. The best school for life is a good home where the children are taught by their parents, by word and by example, to love and serve God and to do good to their fellow men. The training of children in piety and good behaviour is a grave duty of both father and mother.

  32. The school to which parents must send their children, both boys and girls, should be an extension of the home. This means that the religious and moral education begun in the home should not be interrupted or neglected in the school to which the children go. Parents, therefore, have the right and the duty to send their children to the school of their choice where their religious and moral training will receive due attention.

  33. Parents are bound in conscience to take a lively interest in the progress and conduct of their children at school, and in all questions regarding the school, which their children attend. School committees of parents can be most useful in this respect.

  34. During school hours teachers have the care of the children. They take the place of the parents and are responsible to them and to God. They should be not only good instructors but above all religious and virtuous men, for no man can give to others what he does not possess himself. The influence of a good teacher is very great. A good teacher is always respected; he is, like a good doctor, the friend and guide of all. It should be the legitimate ambition of every teacher to earn this respect and confidence.

  35. It is the duty of the State to come to the assistance of the parents by providing for their benefit all the necessary educational facilities. The State, however, may not abuse this very great power. No administrative, financial, social or political considerations give the State the right to interfere with the divinely received right of the parents to have their children educated according to the dictates of their conscience; this right of the parents is more sacred than the rights of the State. Parents are responsible for the entire education of their children, and no one has the power to transfer this responsibility to the State.

  36. It is sometimes objected that, where different religious beliefs exist among the people, the State can only give educational facilities to all by providing one type of school, the State School. The answer is that where different beliefs are found, as in Kenya, a sound educational system will favour and aid both Church and State schools in keeping with the legitimate rights of the parents. Any system or law should take into account the legitimate rights of the parents; these rights should not be made to fit a system or law. Church schools and State schools should, therefore, receive like treatment, for both follow the same syllabus and timetable and in both the pupils are taught by teachers with equal academic qualifications.

  37. The father of a family is the head of the family. He is also the breadwinner. A father is to provide for wife and children by his work. Work does not detract from man's dignity. Consequently, the State must see to it that all may have a reasonable chance to work for a respectable standard of living. It is futile and dangerous to believe that there is another way of improving our condition of life except the hard way of conscientious work. The father of a family in employment has a right to a living family wage which will enable a thrifty workman to support himself and his family in reasonable comfort. Wages may vary from country to country, from industry to industry, but there is a just minimum below which wages may not fall without injustice. A just wage is to be estimated by considering: (1) what is required for the support of the working man and his family in given circumstances; (2) the condition or state of the business or industry; and (3) the economic welfare of the whole community. Besides paying a just wage, the employer is bound to provide proper working conditions according to the age and sex of the worker, such as sufficient recreation, reasonable hours and fitting accommodation.

  38. Industry should not be allowed to disrupt family life. A married worker should live with his family. Long separation from wife and children is bad for the man, for the wife and for the children. Family life is also disrupted if both the man and the wife go out to work; this evil, which is creeping in more and more, is a real threat to happy family life and to the sound education of the children.

  39. There is, however, in human relations no right without corresponding duty. The duty of the employee is to give an honest day's work in return for an honest wage. Workmen may and must, where necessary, press for recognition of their rights, but they should be equally solicitous about their duties and show the same respect for the rights of the employers as they claim for their own. Employers and employees should work in harmony both for their own sake and for the sake of the common good. Accordingly, employers and employees have the right to form their own associations and unions.

  40. Labour or trade unions are a good thing and all workers are advised to join them. Through collective bargaining the workers can secure for themselves fair conditions of work and wages. Trade Unions will always do much good as long as they keep to their original ideals and purposes. Sometimes, however, political agitators have used the Trade Unions for their own wicked purposes which had nothing whatever to do with improving the lot of the workers.

  41. Sometimes it happens that discussions and negotiations between the employers and employees break down. Then the workers are inclined to resort to a strike. Now a strike is a legitimate weapon to redress the legitimate grievances of the workers. The strike is lawful when there is a grave and just cause with hope of success, and other solutions have failed. Moreover, justice and brotherly love must be preserved, and the rights of the public duly respected. As a strike foments class war and is not infrequently attended by violence, disorder, damage to trade and to the common welfare, it is clear that employers and employees should endeavour to settle their disputes by wiser and more prudent methods.

  42. As capital cannot do without labour, nor labour without capital, vocational groups or corporations or guilds, binding together owners, managers and workers of the same trade or profession are advocated. Common sense as well as justice and brotherly love demand that employers and workers should combine together both for their own interests and for the good of all.

  43. Through such corporations it will be possible to put into practice the principle of profit-sharing through a co-partnership or bonus system. By it, the worker not merely receives a wage, but also a share in the net profits. Some form of profit-sharing will help a wider and more just distribution of private property or ownership.

  44. Every man and woman has a right to possess private property and use it as his or her own, for example, land, a home, a shop or factory. This applies with even greater cogency to the father of the family. The right to private property arises from the Natural Law and is sanctioned by Divine Law. Man has a duty to maintain life, not merely by the use of his senses and muscles, but by the use of his intellect and free-will. He can foresee what needs will arise in the future and take steps to provide for them. The seventh and tenth commandments of God enjoin respect for private property and ownership. The right to private property is limited by the nature and purpose of things and also because man is a social being. The right to own property brings the corresponding duty to work and use the property for the good of the family and the whole community with due regard for the rights of other property owners. The chief factors which have contributed to the abuse of private ownership are the exclusion of religion and morality from economics as well as greed and avarice, the abuse of wealth, and inactivity by the State, permitting such factors to operate without interference.

  45. Widespread neglect of the duties attached to property has favoured the rise of the Communist theory according to which man has no right to private ownership of productive goods; these belong to the State alone. Since the social problem was due to a misuse of, rather than to the right of private ownership itself, the State has a grave obligation to uphold the right to private property, to remove and prevent abuses, and to encourage a wider distribution of private property.

  46. Regarding the distribution of land in Kenya, it is our considered view that a settlement should be reached, not unilaterally, but through mutual understanding based on justice which gives each his due and on brotherly love which knows how to give and take. It is our conviction that a move towards such a settlement, if successfully carried out would promote cooperation between the races and make for peaceful development of this country.

  47. Part III : The Community


  48. Man is, through his family, born into a clan, tribe, nation or State. In the distant past families grouped themselves into these larger communities to defend themselves and their goods against hostile persons and also to provide better and more abundant food, in other words, to raise their standard of living. The State is, therefore, a community of families. As God implanted in the nature of men the urge to group themselves together into a nation or State, God is truly the author of the nation or State. And just as the family exists to help the members who compose that family, so the State exists to help the families which compose the State.

  49. God, the founder of the family and of the nation, has left it to men to devise their own form of government. Rulers receive from God power to govern, because all authority is from God. The State is maintained by civil authority, which comes, not from the people, but from God. Civil authority is not created by the people, but to the people belongs the right to determine in whose hands the authority (which comes from God) shall reside and how it shall be exercised. Men may choose what form of government they shall obey (monarchy, republic, democracy, etc.)

  50. It follows that the motive and sanction of our obedience to the civil power is not "the will of the people," but "the will of God." The fourth commandment of God, therefore, which enjoins on us to obey honour and respect our parents, also directs us to obey, respect and honour our legitimate rulers.

  51. Conditions change with the passage of time; old forms of government are replaced by new constitutions. The people of Kenya now desire a democratic form of government by which a group of men elected for a certain period of time by the people themselves exercise authority over the whole nation. Such aspirations are good, for true nationalism or patriotism is a Christian virtue. God wishes man to take an interest and pride in his country to which he is bound by a double bond of blood and soil. But all of us must beware lest love of our country, of kith and kin, become a cloak for the evil of racial or tribal intolerance. And again, in a country of free men, there should be ample scope for freedom of speech and difference of views.

  52. Now that the way has been definitely paved to independence, we fail to see how, in the circumstances, violence by any party or individual against others who hold different views can be justified.

  53. In all changing circumstances the function of the State remains the same, viz., the permanent realisation of the common good in the social, economic and political fields. The end or purpose of the State is to secure the welfare of the people at large, or the common good. The individual must secure what he needs for his personal well-being; the father must secure what is necessary for the well-being of the family; and the State must supply what the individual and the family cannot supply or cannot supply effectively. The State, therefore, exists for the general or common good of its members and families-the welfare of the greatest possible number in the largest possible measure. Special care should be given to the poor and the weak, as they cannot help themselves. The State must secure the common good or welfare:

  54. (a) by preserving order and protecting the rights of its citizens from danger from within or without. The first right and duty of the State is to preserve law and order in the community and to secure for each and all their rights. Hence, the State possesses the right and duty to make civil laws, to administer them, and to enforce them.

  55. (b) by actively promoting the private initiative of individuals, families and other groups. The two chief dangers to which the State is exposed are excessive interference and insufficient interference. Some regard the State as a huge impersonal being distinct from and above all, which by its enormous powers and resources should regulate all and everything. The truth is that the State exists and holds its authority from God in order to supplement the efforts of the individuals and the families forming the State. The State is the servant rather than the lord of all. Are State employees not truly called civil servants? That the individual exists only for the State, and not the State for the individuals, is an utterly false theory.

  56. Examples of undue interference are laws which undermine the stability and unity of marriage, which favour one kind of school against the legitimate rights of parents, etc., etc. On the other hand, insufficient interference is the result of the false view that the State should never interfere with the private dealings and business of its subjects. The State would fail in its task if it were not to seek remedies for social evils and injustices; if it were not to check unscrupulous competition; if it were not to protect the poor and the weak.

  57. Although the state has wide powers, its authority is not absolute nor unlimited. Its authority only extends to what comes within its proper sphere (i.e., the temporal sphere), in the attainment of its proper end (i.e., the common good). The State, therefore, may not deprive men of their essential rights nor absorb the authority of the parents. On the contrary, the laws of the State should respect the inalienable rights of individuals and families. Moreover, the laws of the State should be in accord with the unchanging laws of God. All men, both individually and collectively, are bound to observe -the laws of God, both the natural and the positive. Laws of the State may not render that duty more difficult. Citizens are subject to civil laws and to the laws of God, according to the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Mt 22:21). When a civil law clashes with the law of God, the citizen must obey God rather than men. For the first of all man's relations and duties are those between his soul and God. God's service must come even before that of the State. No power may take from man the right to know God and to follow conscience in His Service.

  58. Here again you will admire the divine wisdom of God. For even the most enlightened and talented statesman is human and liable to make mistakes. Therefore, God set down some general principles and rules which are for the common good in all times and in all places. Statesmen have in them a guide and a sure guide. Who does not recognise the goodness of God in all this? God made civil society; He gives to the rulers, appointed or elected, power to govern, and He supplies them with a code of rules and principles which help them to govern for the common good.

  59. All lawful rulers receive their authority from God whether they owe their position to birth or appointment or to some form of popular election; consequently, they have a right to be obeyed and respected by all. All Christians, but particularly those who have been blessed by God with a good education, must obey and allow due deference to their lawful superiors and by their example lead others along the path of true citizenship; for to be a true Christian is to be a good citizen: "Let every soul be subject to the higher powers for there is no power but from God. Therefore he that resists the power, resists the ordinance of God. And they that resist purchase for themselves damnation" (Rom 13:1-2).

  60. Citizens are not only bound to obey just laws but also take an active interest in the welfare of the community. Not all citizens have the same talents and gifts, but all can help the community by doing their own job well. The carpenter, the mason, the mechanic, the clerk, the trader, the teacher, the doctor, who perform their own task as well as they possibly can, render great service to the community. The more talented and gifted citizens will also serve on Locational Councils, District Councils and even Legislative Councils. These three institutions enjoy, each in its own domain, authority from God to direct wisely and justly the destinies of the nation, and, considered as integral parts of one instrument of national government, they constitute the State. It is clear, therefore, that the choice of representatives of the people on these bodies is of immediate and serious concern. They must be men of proven honesty, moral courage, true wisdom and wise learning. All citizens can and ought to vote for good and capable representatives on such governing bodies; to vote is a duty imposed by love for one's country. All, therefore, should register and, when the time comes, vote for the candidate of their choice.

  61. Every man is free to give his vote to the candidate he thinks best fitted for this responsible task, provided the candidate or the party to which he belongs does not hold and defend a creed or principles which are obviously destructive of the rights of the individuals, of the families and of the community. Such parties are the Communist or Socialist parties in the strict sense of the words.

  62. As political parties seldom have a programme which is entirely in accord with the principles set forth above, a Christian may only give his allegiance to such a party with reservations. For it may well happen that the party will advocate a policy which is not in accord with the natural or positive law of God. In such a case a Christian must obey his conscience rather than the party.

  63. All voters, therefore, should reject unworthy or incompetent candidates and secure the election of men and women who have a genuine interest in the common good and respect the legitimate rights of the individual, the family and the Church.

  64. Such capable and responsible representatives are persons who:

    1. are men of high moral character, of integrity, moral courage and practical ability;
    2. respect the rights and religious beliefs of families and minority groups;
    3. respect the rights of parents to educate their children according to their conscience;
    4. respect the rights of private property;
    5. consider themselves as stewards of God, as representatives of the entire people, and not merely of one party, religion, tribe or social class.


  65. Conclusion


  66. We, the Catholic Bishops and Prefects Apostolic of Kenya, claim the right to advise on these matters, not because we wish to interfere in purely political matters which are not the concern of the Church, but because the Church can never relinquish her God-given task of showing men the right road to heaven.

  67. Since everything men do, in the social, economic and political fields, has a good or bad bearing on their destiny, it is the duty of the Church to interpret and uphold the rights of God, of the Church, of the family and of the individual in all human activities.

  68. Moreover, religion and good moral behaviour are absolutely necessary for man's temporal happiness on earth. Communists promise you a paradise on earth without God or religion. That the claim is false is clearly shown by what is taking place in communist-dominated countries. The Church condemns Communism because it is the enemy of God and, therefore, of man also. If we wish to reach the promised land of peace and happiness, then we must 'walk in the way of God's commandments and follow the truth of God's teaching. Christ is the Way and the Light. He is our true leader to real happiness.

  69. We offer you this letter, dearly beloved people of Kenya, as a token of the deepest interest which the Church is taking in your desire to mould this country into a happy, united and prosperous nation. To this end, we wish to exhort you to make the Divine Law your inspiration. For real freedom does not consist in the right to do whatever one likes or wishes, but in the fulfilment of God's purpose. If society is considered to be man-made and not subject to the laws of God, then there is no defence against tyranny which deprives us of our God-given rights. But if society is considered to be made by God and subject to His Laws, then all our rights are safe in His keeping from interference by any arbitrary human action. Any theory which denies or neglects the link connecting all human concerns with God is an aberration which can only lead to unhappiness. For God is the Creator and end for which the universe exists; but man is the centre of creation, and the secret of national prosperity and happiness is found nowhere save in the nature and destiny of man, who has been made in the image and likeness of God.

  70. We pray with you that God may impart light and strength to rulers and ruled alike in forming a united nation built on the unshakeable foundation of freedom, justice and love.

    Questions for Reflection and Sharing

    1. The Bishops refer to Human Rights. How are these rights ultimately grounded in God's will? Why are they not just individual but also social rights?

    2. What are the rights and duties of the family that you think are most commonly ignored or violated?

    3. "The right to private property is limited": Explain why.

    4. "There is no power but from God" (Cf. Rom 13:1-2). How do you understand the obedience of a citizen to the civil authorities in the light of the Bishops' teaching in this letter?