By: Fadhili Mwambingu
On September 11,2021 the Interreligious Dialogue Commission was privileged to join an exchange visit at one special forest called Kaya Rabai Shrine (Mudzi Muvya) in Kilifi County.
The aim of the visit was to share about their beliefs, the challenges they encounter and how they can relate peacefully with other religions.
Those present in the event were, Interreligious team of the Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa led by Rev. Fr. Richard Airo, Rev. Fr. Diedrich Uwe, Rev.Fr. Siegfried Mwatighina, Human Rights Defendant Julius Wanyama, Kaya Elders Chairperson Daniel Mwawara, Mpini Swafi a servant at the Kaya Mudzi Mvya , Gande Wabumburi, Omar Munga among other invited guests.
At the entrance of the Shrine participants were encouraged to remove shoes as a symbol of respect as they were approaching a holy place.
The elders later on took the participants around the Kaya shrine as they explained what is done in different points within the Shrine.
In an interview with the Head of IRD Rev. Fr. Richard Airo hailed the Kaya Rabai Shrine saying it is indeed a true role model for others in the Coastal area and commended the Mijikenda people for co-existing with their traditional customs.
Kaya Mudzi Mvya (meaning new town) is a Coastal lowland forest found in Kilifi County of southern Kenya.
The sacred place for the local Mijikenda people known as Rabai started over the past hundred years and was gazetted as a World Heritage Site in the year 2008.
The Senior Most of the Council of the Kaya Elders in Rabai and Chair of the seven Kayas in Kilifi County Daniel Mwawara Garero, said that the sacred place is used for various activities which include; preserving the cultural traditions, conducting prayers and also educating willing people on their traditional customs.
According to Daniel only two clans are found in the Kaya Rabai, the Wakiza and the Wamwezi consisting of 28 Sub-Clans.
He further described Wakiza as the meeting point of the Kaya elders before proceeding for prayers as they believe that that is where their chosen religious leaders lived.
Also the Wakiza conducts few activities for 10 days, 20 days after the Wamwezi are done with their work which is normally done during the night hours from the day when the moon is seen.
He also said that unity among them and some Christian Churches has been a challenging thing for a long time, and now appealing to everyone to put aside negative inconstructive views towards them and focus on combining efforts to promote peace and unity.
Also in the same forest there’s a Heritage site that is used for touristic purposes and for cultural activities as well.
In an interview with Julius Wanyama, a human rights defender from a non-governmental organization commonly known as Haki Yetu, he called on people to believe in cultural conservation adding that there’s a need to team up and strengthen the conservation efforts in the Coastal area.
Wanyama termed the World Heritage Site(Mudzi Mvya) in Rabai having a huge potential enhanced Coastal cultural conservation with new touristic experiences that has helped in empowering youths through showcasing their talents and also used as a research centre by University students.
He further warned that strict measures will be taken for those who willingly cause fires in the heritage sites as was witnessed recently at the Kaya Mudzi Mvya in Rabai where facilities were burnt and cultural records lost after an attack by malicious people.
In conclusion the participants expressed their Joy to the elders and thanked them for their generosity in sharing their faith and belief.
They also agreed to advocate for respect, mutual understanding and a peaceful coexistence with other religions in the society.
They also saw the need of people from different religion joining hands together to unify their relationship.