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Covid-19: Alliance wants Interfaith Council dissolved over tough rules

Sunday July 12 2020
Church

An empty Anglican Church of Kenya’s St Matthew’s Cathedral in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County, as pictured on March 29, 2020 following a directive banning gatherings to curb the spread of Covid-19. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By FAITH NYAMAI
By SARAH NANJALA

The Pentecostal Alliance of Kenya wants dissolution of the interfaith council formed to spearhead phased re-opening of churches amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Alliance chair Jonah Kariuki said the Inter-Faith Council on the National Response to the Corona Pandemic has misled the government instead of advising it on the importance and the place of the church during the pandemic.

He added that the alliance is disappointed with the decisions by the government and the council even as cases of the virus in the country continue to increase significantly.

"INSULT"

As of July 12, Kenya had passed the 10,000 mark with 379 more cases of Covid-19. The number of deaths stood at 185 and the recoveries at 2,881.

Bishop Kariuki said on Saturday, “The church cannot be perceived as the place where the virus is being spread yet people are interacting all day long in marketplaces, matatus and other places.”

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He added, “Do we have a pandemic that knows the church and not the market? These people are going to markets and are travelling in buses and matatus yet they can't come to church.”

The alliance further said that limiting services to an hour is an insult to God and noted that the Constitution covers the freedom of worship.

Bishop 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.

He said the government must not put the church in the same category as clubs and bars.

“This country must realise that the church of  Jesus Christ must not suffer because of lack of knowledge,” he said on Sunday.

POPULATION

The alliance further said the council does not sufficiently represent evangelical and pentecostals yet their population is the highest.

Bishop Kariuki noted that according to the 2009 census, evangelicals and pentecostals are the majority in Kenya, numbering about 18 million.

The alliance said Catholics are about nine million in number and Muslims about three million.

“Every religion should have been allowed to come up with guidelines on how to ensure health guidelines are observed. There is no way people from different faiths can agree how to worship their gods,” he said.

“Muslims cannot plan how Christians worship, Hindus cannot plan how Muslims or Christians worship and vice versa,” he said.

The alliance also said the age limit of 13-58 goes against the right to worship so it should not be embraced.

MORE OPPOSITION

The Clergy Association of Kenya raised similar concerns in a statement on Sunday, 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 Ndeda said the time limit does not make sense given there is no limit for other social spaces, including public service vehicles.

“The members we have in our churches are the very ones who, for six days, are meeting in matatus, markets, supermarkets and restaurants. Why is it that everywhere else the capacity is determined by social distance?

“The move makes one wonder if Covid-19 is anti-church or if some people are using it to fight the church in Kenya. Can someone clearly tell Kenyans that the church is no longer needed in this country instead of hiding behind Covid-19?”

MIXED REACTIONS

Following the council’s submission of its recommendations, churches are expected to start re-opening next week.

The announcement has drawn mixed reactions, with churches such as Christ is the Answer Ministries (Citam) saying they will remain closed until further notice.

Bishop Ndeda, of Bethel Christian Pentecostal Church, said the council did not consult them.

“Kenya has several church and clergy umbrella bodies but they are not well represented in the council. We realise some of them have no interest in re-opening as seen in their letters,” he said.

The official wants the council’s recommendations evaluated and “more practical” rules developed in a process that will include all stakeholders.

“If we are not careful, the wrath of God will fall heavily on this country. Let us respect God and the church. Anybody dealing with or talking about the Church must exercise a lot of care and humility,” he said.

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