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Gloomy Easter season amid coronavirus shutdown

KENYA
By Jacinta Mutura | April 3rd 2021

A supermarket in Nyeri Town on Good Friday. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

On Thursday evening at the Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi, priests in robes and masks walked solemnly into the empty church for a mass service to mark the Holy Thursday in remembrance of the Last Supper.

Things were no different on Good Friday (yesterday) when Christians retrace the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ at the break of the big fast in the Holy Week.

In pre-pandemic times, the procession on the streets of Nairobi would have thousands of palm-waving worshippers praying and singing to reminisce Jesus’ last moments before His crucifixion. 

But for the second year running, Christians are marking an “extra-ordinary” Easter when celebrations will be muted following suspension of Holy Week rituals and religious gatherings to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Gerald Omunyin, the national priest director at Radio Maria Kenya, said Christians are living in uncertain times.

“The Easter Triduum means three days of passion, death and resurrection of Christ and it’s the epitome of Christianity where Jesus dies for the salivation of the whole world,” he said.

The Easter Triduum celebrations started with blessing of the Holy Oils by the diocesan bishops, with minimal attendants.

The mass was conducted but the part of washing the feet in remembrance of the humble act of disciples of Jesus was skipped.

“As priests, we are doing the Easter processes and Christians will be following on television and our social media platforms,” he said.

Omunyin said washing of the feet and veneration of the cross was skipped to avoid physical contact in keeping with coronavirus containment measures.

Mind boggling

“Such disruptions have happened before, especially during wars, but since our generations have not experienced this, it is mind-boggling,” said Omunyin.

Some families of the Catholic faith opted to put the crucifix in their houses as they follow the televised Easter processes, as is the norm in veneration of the cross.

“We are following Covid-19 guidelines because we don’t want to expose people to the disease. We remain hopeful that we will overcome this,” he said.

Following ban on physical church meetings in the counties on partial lockdown and directives by the Interfaith Council for National Response to Coronavirus Pandemic, most churches have reverted to online services, which members follow from home.

The directives issued by the council chaired by Anthony Muheria, the Archbishop of Nyeri Diocese, will apply even for the holy celebrations of Easter, Ramadhan and Hindu festivals that fall within this period of restrictions.

Sammy Wainaina, the All Saints Cathedral Provost Canon said their Holy Thursday service aired on television and on the church’s Facebook and YouTube channels was pre-recorded.

“It will have some impact on Christians but when things are done live or when the congregation is here, the effect is better,” he said.

“What we do as Christians during Easter or any other big feast is to reenact what happened many years ago.

“Re-enacting brings meaning to the occasion because Jesus said ‘do this in memory of me’. Suspending celebrations of the traditions for the second time is not interesting,” said Wainaina.

The provost said they would broadcast Easter Sunday service live as they have been doing with daily devotions.

However, Wainaina said churches and other places of worship should have not suffered the fate of other perceived super-spreaders.

Empirical data

“There was no empirical data tracing infections to churches.

“The president, his deputy and other key leaders had been holding political rallies and now we’re suffering the consequences of other people’s actions,” said Wainaina.

Religious leaders have been urging Kenyans to adhere to Covid-19 protocols even during this season of celebrations.

“Our prayer is that God have mercy on this country as Jesus dies and resurrects and that Kenyans will use this lockdown as an opportunity to lessen the infections because our health facilities are overstretched already.”

“Our worst fear during this time of Covid-19 is the possibility of losing more people. Calls coming from people asking for prayers as they battle the virus and others who have lost their loved ones are devastating.

“One death affects a family and the society at large,” said the provost who is also a survivor of the virus.

John Irungu, a taxi driver and Anglican Church of Kenya member said it was difficult to feel the essence of Easter without being able to observe its cherished traditions.

Like thousands of Kenyans caught up in the shutdown, Irungu will not be visiting his family in Murang’a County for the Easter holidays as they normally do following economic hardship and the partial lockdown on the five counties classified as disease-zones.

Covid 19 Time Series

 

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