Tough rule as worshippers brace for new walk of faith

Wednesday, June 3rd, 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

Worshippers should be ready to embrace tougher restrictions when places of worship officially re-open as per President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive during his Madaraka Day address, religious leaders have warned.

The clerics, health officials and various government authorities at the national and county governments engaged in the talks have indicated that re-opening of churches will be marked by changes as the Church seeks to adopt the new normal to protect worshippers from contracting infections.

Bishop Martin Kivuva of the Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa said the Clergy  across all faiths - among them Christians, Hindus and Muslims - were in talks on the possibility of “accommodating each other by sharing places of worship in turns but in a co-ordinated manner.”

While referring to a recent case where a church in Germany’s capital, Berlin, helped a nearby mosque comply with physical distancing guidelines by hosting Friday prayers, Bishop Kivuva said there is a possibility of applying a similar approach in the country as a sign of solidarity during this time of crisis.

“This is a time to demonstrate solidarity by accommodating one another. We are in constant discussions across religions to see the possibility of accommodating one another because this is the time we need each other. Where there is room for Christian worshippers to worship near or outside Mosques on Sundays then well and good. 

“In the same way, Muslims should be allowed to worship in Churches, there is no harm in doing that,” explained Kivuva.

He said religious leadership across the country was fully aware of scenarios in other parts of the world where similar reopening ended up triggering a surge in Covid-19 infections and therefore health measures would be considered as a number one priority when Churches finally resume.

“It is therefore imperative that we observe what the health measures even in Church. So we are ensuring that only numbers that can maintain a minimum distance from one another of 1.5 metres will attend services. 

“This means that we shall be forced to conduct various services to allow for spacing. There will be no greetings by hugging, there must be hygiene in places of worship,” he said.

The prelate said clerics had appealed to the State to provide hand sanitisers, soap and water as well as masks for use by the congregation.

“Because we will need masks, sanitisers, soap and water to serve a congregation of say 200 people per service in some cases, you see this requires a lot of resources considering that various people come from different backgrounds. 

“Not everybody can afford to buy masks daily, or hand sanitisers considering that these are difficult times,” explained the Bishop.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) Mombasa Diocese Alphonce Mwaro Baya who said as his officials have been attending County government meeting related to Covid-19 response to discuss measures of re-opening and further he has formed a committee which will oversee the implementation of re-opening guidelines.

“We are thinking of having a team to screen for fevers before members are allowed into the Church and where temperatures are high or show any symptoms, we will recommend such persons to medics. At the same time we will have several programs to achieve social distance,” he said 

“Ordinarily services take between one and half hours to two hours but now we shall reduce them to between 45 hours and one hour. 

“During the service there will be no sharing of hymn and prayer books. After services there will be no meetings.”

And on their part the Council of Imams and Preacher of Kenya (CIPK) supported the re-opening of mosques, churches and other places of worship despite the increase in cases of coronavirus.

“This is the right time to re-open mosques and churches which are the best places to help sensitise Kenyans on prevention measures and support government efforts to stem the spread of the disease,” said CIPK Organising Secretary Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa.

  Sheikh Khalifa challenged mosques and other places of worship to support the government in its effort to contain the further spread of coronavirus and to strictly adhere to Ministry of Health Covid-19 protocols.

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