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Age Limit, Numbers at Public Worship Revised in Kenya’s Phased Reopening

Archbishop Anthony Muheria, Chairman of Kenya’s Interfaith Council.

Children under the age of six and the those above 65 years have been allowed to participate in public worship in Kenya in the latest phased reopening that has also revised upwards the number of people allowed in places of worship at once.

“We will now welcome the elderly over 65 years and young ones under 6 years to the worship,” Catholic Archbishop Anthony Muheria who Chairs Kenya’s Interfaith Council announced, Tuesday, September 29.

In the new guidelines that are to take effect Friday, October 2, vulnerable and sick members of the society have been directed not to participate in public worship.

The leadership of the 16-member council also announced the extension of the duration of public worship from 90 minutes to two hours. 

“The number allowed in any space of worship will now be determined by 1.2metres social distancing,” Archbishop Muheria announced, revising the previous 1.5-metres social distancing measure. 

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The Local Ordinary of Kenya’s Nyeri Archdiocese further said during the press conference in Nairobi September 29, “We will also allow group meetings and special service for youth and special groups provided they follow the other criteria of social spacing and duration.”

He also said that previously set guidelines “of hand washing or sanitizing stations in the compound, and where possible temperature checks, will still continue in force.” 

“All requirements of sanitization of the premises, non-sharing of items and use of common elements will also continue in force,” he added.

Places of worship in the East African country reopened in July amid strict guidelines after three months of closure aimed at minimizing the spread of the COVID-19.

“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,” Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said when he addressed the nation July 6.

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In August, the time for public worship was extended from 60 minutes to 90 minutes, the leadership of the 16-member Council also announcing that the age limit of eligible congregants had been revised from that previously set 13-58 years to 6-65 years.

In the September 29 Press Conference, the Chairman of the Inter-faith Council noted that funeral gatherings pose the “biggest danger in the gathering for prayer”. 

He “sincerely and passionately” appealed to Kenyans to consider the dangers that irresponsible behavior in funerals can cause saying, “We love our dear ones who have passed away, but we do not want the funeral to be a cause for other funerals we can avoid.”  

“We must recover the meaning of the funeral as a prayer gathering, and not a political, status, or public spectacle platform. Funerals must return to be funerals,” Archbishop Muheria said September 29.

He regretted the behavior of a section of politicians saying, “We have unfortunately witnessed not only a total flouting of all COVID-19 guidelines, rules and protocols, but even the total lack of decency and respect, especially from the political class.”

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“Please, we ask you in this COVID-19 time, please postpone your public gatherings that put our people at risk, because they gather without masks and without social distancing,” the Archbishop addressed himself to politicians.

He added making reference to politicians, “Consider putting all your political gatherings on hold, until we are fully out of the woods in this coronavirus pandemic.”

Politicians need to give “us an example of compliance beyond wearing masks,” the Archbishop said, expressing the wish that the discipline being adhered to in places of worship would be followed across all in-person gatherings. 

To Religious leaders, Archbishop Muheria encouraged, “Continue to follow the Guidelines strictly, even when we continue to witness a total disregard especially among our political class. We cannot get tired of giving good examples.”

“With hope, we can rise from the various situations, and praying together move towards the recovery from so many blows at the financial, economic and family levels, and forge once more a better future for our children,” the 57-year-old Kenyan Prelate said.

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He said in conclusion, “We as Interfaith Council urge you to continue praying fervently for an end of this pandemic. Let us also hold on to hope, as God continues caring for us.”