Religious leaders have been asked to safeguard the wellbeing of their congregations by adhering to the self-regulating guidelines in reopening places of worship developed by the inter-faith council chaired by Arch-bishop Antony Muheria.
Bishop Dr Mike Brawan of Metro Church International noted that the high number of Covid-19 positive cases being recorded in the country had been sparked off by Kenyans’ non-adherence to the measures put in place by the Ministry of Health adding that religious leaders should lead by example of ‘being disciplined’.
Dr Brawan spoke as a section of clergymen opposed some of the regulations that saw places of worship reopened under stringent guidelines following negotiations between religious leaders, the National Security Council and the national emergency response committee on Covid-19.
The clergyman said reopening places of worship will only be successful if Kenyans are willing to comply with government regulations, among them social distancing and proper sanitation.
“The success in reopening of our public spaces of worship will largely depend on our willingness to protect each other, making it safe to meet with minimal risks,” he added.
He backed a directive by President Uhuru Kenya that only 100 congregants at any given session be allowed in places of worship as this was the only way to guarantee adherence to social distancing.
The Bishop called on religious leaders to come up with innovations where they can reach their congregants under 13-year-olds and older people aged 58 years and above, as well as those with underlying conditions such as hypertension and diabetes from home.
“The guidelines under which places of worship are supposed to operate have been developed after consultations with medical experts. There are very good reasons why the services have been limited to one hour,” noted the Bishop.
Last week the Pentecostal Alliance of Kenya claimed that limiting services to an hour is an insult to God and noted that the Constitution covers the freedom of worship.
Alliance chair Jonah Kariuki said the solution to the pandemic lies with the church as it is only through prayer that God will have mercy on the world. The alliance also said the age limit of congregants being above 13 years and below 58 years goes against the right to worship so it should not be embraced.
The Clergy Association of Kenya raised similar concerns in a statement on Sunday, with Executive Member Bishop Hudson Ndeda saying the restrictions, including having only 100 people in services that last one hour, lower the significance of the church.
Bishop Brawan noted that religious leaders should prioritize the wellbeing of their congregations before reopening places of worship as poorly managed church gatherings pose high risk and may be new Covid-19 hotspots.
He said other countries have suffered a high number of infections resulting from poorly organized church gatherings.
In Germany, for example, a cluster of 112 infections and one death were traced to one church, while another 30 cases were traced to a church in West Virginia in the United States.
By Anne Mwale