, 06 July, 2020 / 10:25 PM
Children attending Sunday School and those who go for Madrassas in Mosques are among the groups of congregants who will not be allowed to attend public worship in a new set of directives given by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta who announced the resumption of public worship in the East African country.
President Kenyatta made the announcement Monday, July 6 when he also lifted, effective Tuesday, July 7 at 4 a.m., the cessation of movement order that disallowed entry into and out of three Counties of Nairobi, Mombasa, and Mandera
He announced that the resumption of public worship would follow a strict set of guidelines that had been developed by the Inter-Faith Council, which is led by the Local Ordinary of Kenya’s Catholic Archdiocese of Nyeri, Archbishop Anthony Muheria. The 16-person Council, which has two other Catholic Bishops as members, comprises religious leaders drawn from different faith-based institutions in Kenya.
“Places of worship will commence phased re-opening for congregational worship and public worship in strict conformity with all applicable guidelines and protocols, including the self-regulating guidelines developed by the Inter-Faith Council,” the President said in his public address July 6.
He added, “Sunday Schools and Madrassas shall remain suspended until further notice, and in-person worship shall not include congregants under the age of thirteen (13) years or above the age of fifty-eight (58) years or persons with underlying conditions.”
According to Kenya’s Head of State, only a maximum of 100 participants will be allowed at each worship ceremony that will be conducted in not more than one hour.
The Presidential declaration was made five days after Kenyan Bishops through their umbrella body, the Kenya Catholic Bishops Conference (KCCB), released a set of guidelines to advise the government on a safe and phased resumption of public worship.
The president appealed to religious leaders in the country to exercise responsibility in ensuring that those who resume public worship are safe from COVID-19 infection.
“I have engaged our religious leaders and we have agreed that it is not possible to have a security officer manning each and every church in this country,” he said and added, “Our church leaders must take upon themselves the responsibility to ensure that as we go back to pray to our God, we’ll do that in a way that will not endanger the lives of others.”
The Kenyan President also expressed his appreciation for the religious team led by Archbishop Muheria who drafted and submitted safety guidelines that informed the decision to declare the phased resumption of public worship.
“I appreciate the team of religious leaders led by Archbishop Muheria and the team that work on the side of education led by Professor Magoha,” the President said.
He added, “The two teams will inform us the results of the consultative meeting they have had and further direct us on how we shall reopen our churches and mosques and how we shall go about reopening our schools to ensure that our children go back to school in a way that will not endanger their lives.”
Meanwhile, President Kenyatta has extended the order that bars social and political gatherings “of whatever nature” for a further period of 30 days. Restrictions on the number of persons who can attend weddings and funerals has also been extended for a similar period.
Additionally, bars will still be restricted to “take-away” only, meaning that customers will not be allowed to spend time in these leisure joints for another 30 days.
The President also noted the economic and social challenges he said the country was facing and called on Kenyans to change their mindset to survive the COVID-19 disaster.
“Jobs have been lost, businesses have closed and livelihoods endangered. And this is the sorry state of things the world over,” the President said, and added, “But history has taught us that the COVID crisis is not the first health disaster with such enormous economic challenges. There were many more before this one. However, those who overcame previous disasters and finished on top, began by first changing their mind sets.”
President Kenyatta also expressed concern over increased teenage pregnancies during the COVID-19 lockdown, cases of domestic violence and mental issues, which he said have been on the rise.
“I am concerned by increasing tensions within our homes. Cases of Gender-Based Violence have increased, mental health issues have worsened, and instances of teenage pregnancy have escalated,” he said in his Monday address.
He appealed to religious institutions and other social entities to exercise civic responsibility to bring the “unfortunate trends” to an end.
“We must always remember that the family is a projection of the State,” he said, and added, “If the family is under attack, the State is under attack. If the family is weak, the country is weak.”
As a way forward, President Kenyatta said, “To fortify our protection of the family as the foundation of the State, I further direct and order that the National Crime Research Centre to probe the escalating cases of gender-based violence, the worrying trend of cases where the girl child has been disempowered and the violation of children’s rights.”
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