Christians and Muslims Unite to Fight Drug Abuse in Kenya
With the government turning a blind eye to a growing "national disaster," religious groups put aside their differences to help.
Christian and Muslim groups in Kenya are putting aside their religious differences to join in helping combat alcohol and drug addiction, as concerns over substance abuse increase, The Washington Post reports. Religious leaders have declared a national disaster, saying that young Kenyans are increasingly turning to drugs—mainly heroin, cocaine, alcohol, bhang (marijuana) and khat—due to poverty, unemployment, foreign influences and ignorance about the dangers of addiction. In an effort to improve the situation, both Sunday schools and Islamic madrassas are offering preventative education and life skills training to improve public awareness. Some groups are also offering rehab and psychosocial support. “We have been taking a leading role for some time, since the community and the government have been in denial,” says Rev. Wilfred Kogo, head of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa’s drug abuse division. “We are going beyond our own congregations to also educate our neighbors.”
Churches began speaking out about substance abuse in the East African country back in the late 1990s, when drug-related riots became a problem for schools. And in 2008, students accused of consuming alcohol and drugs in over 300 secondary schools destroyed millions of dollars worth of school property. “We were very alarmed,” says Francis Kihara, a lay leader in the East African Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church of Kenya. “We went visiting primary and secondary (high) schools and educating the children about drugs.” A 2012 report found that 13% of kids ages 10 to 14 have used an intoxicating substance like alcohol. In addition, almost 12% of 15 to 24-year-olds abuse alcohol, and 6% regularly consume tobacco products. But the government may finally be willing to step in: President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered security forces to deport or arrest any suspected foreign drug traffickers earlier this month. “This is the strongest commitment against drugs that we heard in 51 years,” says Sheikh Juma Ngao, director of Kenya’s National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol And Drug Abuse. “It is a key boost to our work.”