Prayer, belief and religion are central parts of the lives of tens of millions of Kenyans. We are a devout people who have faith and hope in our religious texts and ceremonies.
The coronavirus pandemic has put our faith to one of the greatest tests as we see people dying around the world from this mysterious virus which suddenly turned into a scourge of humanity.
As opposed to many other catastrophes in recent times, whether floods, famine or other natural disasters, this time it is much harder to take solace in the church, mosque or temple.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has dedicated this weekend to prayer. Buoyed by the undying spirit of Kenyans, the President is asking citizens to pray for the country in their usual places of worship. He will then convene and inter-faith national prayer service today at State House.
The national weekend of prayer is timely in fostering calm, support for one another and offering the much needed time for self-reflections. Prayer has the power to ease anger and aggression especially in the wake of the tough economic times occasioned by the Covid-19 challenge.
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Admittedly, Kenya needs more prayer moments. As a nation we face teething challenges. And with 2022 politics beginning to weigh heavily on us, let’s indulge in prayer and keep up the faith but in compliance with Covid-19 containment protocols.
In March, congregational worship was suspended. This was certainly a difficult step taken by religious groups and the government. A week after Kenya recorded its first death from the Coronavirus, President Kenyatta hosted Muslim, Hindu and Christian clergy for an inter-religious service marking a national day of prayer.
Kenyans were encouraged to virtually follow the service in order to avoid gathering in places of worship. This was an example for the nation that while congregational service was temporarily halted, there was need to continue praying in the spirit of unity and national solidarity.
As Uhuru pointed out, in these circumstances, we have always turned to God to give thanks and to share our fears, our apprehensions, but also to seek his guidance and ever-present protection. Critics should well be told that there’s nothing wrong in seeking religious solutions to scientific or health problems.
The Covid-19 situation has upset the world in a level never witnessed. Leaders knew then, as they know today, that a pandemic can create a crisis of confidence, hence the need for prayers.
Many people, witnessing the hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide, the millions of infections and the crashing of stable economies, might understandably question why Africa seems to have ‘survived’ more than the much developed continents in terms of Covid-19 fatalities. The answer may as well lie in prayer and supplication.
It’s time to place emphasis on providing spiritual encouragement while trying to get the situation under control, economically and medically without neglecting the ecclesiastical.
Now that our houses of worship are starting to reopen, the government has put out firm guidelines on how to ensure that our churches, mosques and temples do not become incubators of the disease.
Prayer and communion with God are very personal, and while communal worship is vital for our religious communities, President Kenyatta, by declaring this weekend a prayer moment, has shown the way that to holiness is to save lives and not risk them.
As the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel says: “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so, turn, and live.”
We are commanded to live above all. No religious prayer, ablution or meditation will help us if we cause the death or suffering of others. Killing someone is against one of the Ten Commandments and is a grave sin, so saving the life of others must be a great blessing.
We should remain committed to helping people live and so we should whenever possible and feasible we must continue to seek God’s guidance and appeal for the protection of others.
This is not just a physical question, but a deeply spiritual one. In the spiritual world, they say faith can move mountains.
We should save the lives of those who might be harmed by the disease but also the souls of those who might have doubts about the true meaning of our lives because of the pandemic.
This is where President Kenyatta’s constant soothing words and inspiration are vital. He may be working around the clock to rescue the country and its people from the challenge of Coronavirus, but he will also stop, take a breath and kneel in submission before the Creator. We need this kind of absolute faith, now more than ever.
-The writer is a social workers and development communications expert