State bans Church, mosque gatherings in new directives

Monday, March 23rd, 2020 00:00 |
An empty church. This has been the situation in most churches in the country since the Covid-19 disease was reported in the country, followed by the ban on gatherings. PD/KENNA CLAUDE

The government yesterday suspended church, mosque and other social gatherings as it moved to tame further spread of  coronavirus. 

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the government would strictly enforce the directive because previous such measures to avoid gatherings, including weddings and funerals, were largely ignored. 

“We’ve told people not to go into gatherings but some of them have decided they must continue to do so,” he said in a press briefing yesterday.

The CS, while announcing the country had confirmed eight more coronavirus cases, warned that Kenyans must learn from Italy, which he said has borne the brunt of the virus because of initial defiance to social distancing directives.

The new directive comes even as Christians across the country yesterday felt the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, as most were locked out of their places of worship and others ejected by police officers. 

 Others attended church from the comfort of their houses as their pastors live streamed services online while others were beamed on TV and radio.

However, in some parts of the country, including Nairobi, Kiambu and Kisii counties, some followers defied the government directive and turned up in large numbers to worship, attracting criticism from Kenyans, especially on digital platforms. 

For the defiant ones, some faithful were locked out of their churches, with police in Mombasa disrupting worship activities.

At  the Jesus Celebration Centre (JCC) in Bamburi, Mombasa county, worshippers were forced to cut short their service following a directive by police.

“We normally conduct three services but we have been forced to do two. We are not opposed to the precautionary measures but we feel it’s not right for police to disrupt us,” said Kenneth Maundu, a worshipper.

Led by Kisauni police boss Julius Kiragu, officers blocked the church entrance to ensure no more worshippers could go inside.

Kiragu said  a multi-agency team had raided over five  churches that had defied directives to avoid social gatherings to tame the spread of the virus.

“There are some churches that have defied the order and we are not going to allow people to continue disobeying government orders,” he said.

Most churches in Nairobi also suspended their services. At the Christian Foundation Fellowship (CFF), most of their sermons were broadcast online.

“You can’t be reckless in the name of God. The same God allowed it and He wants us to learn and repent. Obey what the government is saying,” said CFF bishop Harrison Ng’ang’a.

The Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) has also suspended all its services for the next 30 days. This the first time that the All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi suspended its services in 100 years.

Suspended services

 The church announced that Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit will be conducting special broadcast services on Sundays at 8am and Wednesdays 6pm.

“This will be streamed live on the official Archbishop and ACK Facebook pages and other platforms. Additionally, we encourage the use of technology in the ministry,” Archbishop Sapit said.

The Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) has also suspended its Sunday services and all other church activities.

PCEA secretary-general Peter Kaniah said the church has suspended the services for the next 21 days. In line with this, the service at Nairobi’s St Andrews Church was broadcast on live TV.

But the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops said masses will continue in all their churches—but that has since been overtaken by CS Kagwe’s directive. A spotcheck at Holy Family Basilica revealed that the masses were ongoing, but had been shortened.

In a letter addressed to all priests in Nairobi, Father Wallace Ng’ang’a directed priests not to extend mass beyond one hour. “Offertory will be done after the final communion prayer to avoid possible spread of the virus during reception of Holy Communion Fr Ng’ang’a said.

“Where possible, encourage Christians to use pay bill number,” he said.

In Murang’a, it was business as usual in most churches, although some precautionary measures had been put in place.

 At ACK St James Cathedral in Murang’a town, tents were erected outside the church to decongest the buidling.

   In Vihiga , Christians were forced to stay at home after their churches closed to obey the directives given by the ministry.

 Church of God in East Africa led by Bishop Byrum Makokha ordered its main churches to remain closed asking their followers to conduct prayers at homes.

Elsewhere in Nyamira,  Christians went about their activities undeterred. The defiant faithful turned up in huge numbers at their places of worship. 

It was an unusual Sunday for many faithful in Nakuru county as some churches remained closed. 

At Christ is The Answer Ministries, gates remained closed with a poster that no one was to be allowed in the premise until further notice. The Ministry advised congregants to watch the service on Facebook or alternatively on Hope TV. 

In Kisii, Catholic  Bishop Joseph Okemwa cancelled weddings ceremonies and ordered they be postponed until further notice. 

And in Kiambu,  most churches defied the government’s directives against public gatherings.

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