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Interfaith Council bans vigils, long services as Christmas beckons

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By Gloria Aradi | December 23rd 2020
Interfaith Council Chairman Archbishop Anthony Muheria addresses the press at Ufungamano House on December 23, 2020. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The long-held tradition of celebrating Christmas and New Year holidays in church is the latest normal to be disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

The Interfaith Council for National Response to Corona Virus Pandemic on Wednesday released guidelines that will govern worship during one of the most important events in the Christian calendar.

Speaking at Ufungamano House in Nairobi, the council’s chairman, Archbishop Anthony Muheria, urged religious leaders to reinforce observation of the earlier issued guidelines governing places of worship.

The Interfaith Council has urged churches to restrict services to 90minutes. [Wilberforce, Okwiri]

Christmas and New Year celebrations in places of worship will only last a maximum of 90 minutes.

Additionally, the overnight vigils observed by most churches on New Year’s Eve have been banned this year.

“Keep the worship sessions to 90 minutes. That means there should not be any ‘keshas’ during this period and even on New Year’s Eve as they have not yet been allowed,” said Archbishop Muheria.

The archbishop, however, instructed church leaders who may want to engage in other church activities besides worship services to find solutions but within the COVID-19 safety directives.

During the reopening of places of worship in July, the council provided a list of safety directives, including washing or sanitizing of hands before entering the places of worship, observing social distancing, limiting worship sessions to 90 minutes, and barring the sick and elderly from services.

The need for the council to remind the country of these guidelines, Archbishop Muheria stated, was necessitated by the laxity of the public in observing COVID-19 safety directives, derailing the country's fight against the pandemic.

Muheria said funerals have been notorious in fuelling contravention of COVID-19 safety precautions. He called on religious leaders to enforce the safety measures at funerals, particularly, in ensuring mourners wear masks and observe social distancing. The archbishop further reiterated that food should not be served at funerals and a maximum of 15 people be allowed to participate in gravesite rituals.

He also called out politicians, blaming them for leading the defiance of the COVID-19 safety guidelines.

With schools reopening just a few days after the festive season, Archbishop Muheria also expressed the need for COVID-19 guidelines to be observed in worship services in schools.

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