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Worshippers at Holy Family Basilica Church in Nairobi: Churches in Kenya have been exercising strict social distancing due to COVID-19. /CFM-FILE.

Corona Virus

59 percent of Kenyans want churches re-opened under COVID-19 protocols

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 14 – 59 percent of Kenyans are in support of plans to re-open places of worship, but under strict COVID-19 protocols.

This is according to a survey released by Infotrak Research conducted in May, targetting 12,000 respondents in 24 counties.

The study shows that 65 percent of people in urban areas and 57 per cent of those in rural Kenya support the plan.

“When you talk of churches in urban areas, many think of formalized big four walls that many of us frequent on Sundays. Aware indeed that they can have the capacity to hold numerous services and also practice physical distancing,” said Angela Ambitho, the Chief Executive Officer at Infotrak, during a virtual press briefing Sunday.

She said that people in urban areas believe they will be able to observe social distancing and observe hygiene measures.

“But there are many other churches that many of us do not frequent which are in small rooms and especially in rural areas what is perceived to be a church cab be something that is held within a very small space,” she said.

 On Friday, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi and his Health counterpart Mutahi Kagwe jointly appointed an Inter-Religious Council chaired by Catholic Archbishop Anthony Muheria to review re-opening of churches.

Archbishop Muheria was mandated to guide the council on the development of stringent protocols for a phased re-opening of places of worship in guidelines expected to allow a more participatory mode of worship under the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Pursuant to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive for the development of protocols that will guide the re-opening of places of worship for in-person congregational gatherings, CS Mutahi Kagwe and I have jointly appointed The Inter-Faith Council that will guide this process,” Matiangi said.

Members of the Inter-Religious Faith Council include Bishop John Obala (KCCB), Bishop Joseph Obanyi, Rev. Moderator Julius Mwamba (PCEA), Canon Chris Kamau Kinyanjui (NCCK), Canon Rosemary Mbogo (ACK), Samuel Makori and Al Hajj Hassan Ole Naado (SUPKEM).

Others are Sheikh Sukyan Hassan Omar (SUPKEM), Sheikh Abdulatif Abdulkarim (KCIU), Rev. Joseph Mutie (OAIC), Bishop David Onginde (CITAM), Rev. Connie Kivuti, Sujata Kotamraju (Hindu Council of Kenya), Retired Rev. Samuel Thiong’o Mwangi (General Conference of Akorino Churches Assembly) and Sheikh Ali Said Samojah.

Doctor Kepha Ombacho (Director of Special Programmes MoH), Francis Kuria (Inter-Religious Council of Kenya) and Paul Famba (Director of Administration Interior Ministry) will serve as joint secretaries.

The team was also tasked to come up with protocols for the celebration of weddings and other religious ceremonies in the places of worship under social distancing guidelines.

They will file a report to President Kenyatta, through the National and County Government’s coordinating summit.

President Uhuru Kenyatta had on June 1 directed the ministries of Interior and Health to hasten talks with religious leaders on how best places of worship can be re-opened under public health protocols.

COVID-19 cases rose to 3,457 in Kenya Saturday, after 152 new infections were recorded.

Fatalities also increased to 100, after 4 more patients succumbed to the disease.

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However, 57 patients were also discharged on Saturday, raising the number of recoveries in the country to 1,221.

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