, 05 June, 2020 / 6:12 AM
A Kenyan Catholic activist is spearheading an online campaign for the resumption of public worship in the East African nation while adhering to “necessary measures.”
The campaign is based on the argument that Government authorities in Kenya “have forbidden believers from visiting churches and participating in worship services” while allowing the operation of “other services that include and not limited to transport, restaurants, pharmacies, supermarkets, abortion centers etc.”
“Many serious experts consider these decisions to be in violation of the Constitution and federal laws,” CitizenGo, the organization behind the campaign, an initiative spearheaded by the Campaigns Director in Africa, Ann Kioko, posted on the online forum.
“The worshippers want to go to church; they want to receive the sacrament while observing the necessary measures just like everyone does while going to use public service vehicles or going to a supermarket,” the organizers of the campaign state on the online forum with the petition where at least 29,800 people have signed.
They add, “For Christians, the impossibility of visiting the church is not only the deprivation of prayer together, but also the lack of the ability to confess and take part in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.”
Reaching out to Kenyans to sign the online petition, the leadership of CitizenGo appeals, "We ask the President and the Government to listen to the requests of believers and open churches to enable them attend and participate in divine services, in compliance with all necessary sanitary precautions"
In an interview with ACI Africa Thursday, June 4, Ann Kioko called on the Kenyan government to reopen places of worship saying, “We are asking that churches be reopened but necessary measures be applied.”
“If our Bishops and pastors are given an opportunity to operate churches with the necessary measures, they are going to excel in it,” the Kenyan-born activist said and added, “It is just a matter of trusting our pastors and Bishops and let us see them reopening our churches so that we can go worship and partake in Holy Communion because it has been over two months without taking Holy Communion and we need to go back.”
In March, Kenya’s government ordered the immediate closure of all places of worship and entertainment joints among other raft of measures aimed at containing the spread of the COVID-19 in the country.
Public transport, markets and other businesses were allowed to operate on condition that the service providers adhere to safety measures including wearing of face masks, providing hand sanitizers, and ensuring social distancing.
In April, the government allowed a conditional reopening of restaurants.
That places of worship remain closed bothers the Catholic activist, Ann Kioko
“Someone may argue that we are not paying attention to the churches because they are not bringing in any financial gain to the government,” she told ACI Africa adding that religious institutions in Kenya play a very important role “and cannot be underestimated.”
“Churches are very important in providing spiritual guidance, praying for the country,” she explained, adding that with the current situation of the pandemic, “we should be more focused on prayers right now.”
“The State should be asking the church to pray for them,” she added.
“We will continue demanding the reopening of churches. If the government does not respond to our demands, we will take more action; we can go to court,” the Campaigns Director in Africa said.
Founded in 2013 in Spain, CitizenGO is described as a “community of active citizens who work together, using online petitions and action alerts as a resource, to defend and promote life, family, and liberty.” It is present in 50 countries across the globe.
“CitizenGo is basically a Christian organization but our petition is to open all places of worship. If churches are re-opened, all other places of worship will be opened too,” Ms. Kioko said.
She also confirmed that Kenya’s Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Security has received their petition saying, “We got a call from the Ministry confirming the petition has been received and they are working on it.”
Meanwhile, in a recent meeting, Kenyan government authorities and representatives of the Catholic Bishops in the country held a meeting to discuss the possibility of re-opening churches for public worship.
“We talked about the need to slowly, gradually and with a lot of prudence, open churches for public worship. There will be no rush in charting this path,” Archbishop Philip Anyolo who is the Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) told ACI Africa.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa