Opinion

Religious leaders must help us stop spread of Covid-19

Religious leaders must help us stop spread of Covid-19
  • No more church services, Bible study fellowships and mass until Covid-19 is crushed.
  • In the age of high technology and mobile phones, call your members. Text them. Use your Facebook page.

"Church, the weak link" read Daily Nation’s headline this past Monday.

That was the most heartbreaking story I have read during the Covid-19 crisis.

Even after the government banned all religious gatherings — including church services — some clergymen still went ahead to conduct services and mass, putting the lives of thousands of Kenyans at risk.

There is not a single institution in this country that has more influence on Kenyans than religious ones. In Kenya, the pastor’s word is law, to be obeyed and not to be questioned.

Clergymen in this part of the world wield a staggering level of authority on Kenyans, and if you want something done or a message passed across, you tell the pastors to pass it on to their followers.

People have abandoned their families, sold property, tithed entire salaries, left their jobs and done outrageous things because pastor told them to.

PERCEPTION

Some pastors in this town have even convinced people to call them ‘mum’ and ‘dad’, if you ever needed more persuasion on the sheer power of clergymen.

If you want to court trouble — and I mean trouble of biblical magnitude — try to attack a clergyman or a ‘prophet’ with a massive following and you will hear every curse known to man.

It is exactly for this reason that we must all be collectively worried when a cross-section of the church is not playing ball in the fight against Covid-19.

This is not just about some pastors defying government directives and conducting mass with the potential of spreading the disease; it is deeper than that.

It is about some of our clergymen downplaying the pandemic and going against every government effort to contain the spread of the disease.

Simply put, it sends a message to the faithful that if some pastors and priests can conduct mass, Covid-19 is not as serious as the government purports, so why should we wash our hands, sanitise or even observe social distancing?

NONCHALANCE

And that is not something we want in this country, especially if we were to learn from other countries like South Korea, in which one churchgoer — Patient 31 — put thousands at high risk.

Kenyans have been very reckless in observing Covid-19 preventive measures. Some of our leaders who travelled from Europe neglected self-quarantine and there is a priest who jetted in from Italy to Siaya to conduct burial rites and then later tested positive.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe was on the verge of desperation, asking us to be a little more serious with our preventive measures.

“We are suffering from cases of indiscipline; Kenyans are exhibiting very undisciplined behaviour, and this is going to cost us.”

If we are to contain the spread of Covid-19, we need everybody on board — especially the Church.

We need this body to pull its weight in sending the message to Kenyans by influencing their faithful to take Covid-19 with the seriousness it deserves.

For the sake of Kenya, church leaders need to present a united front. They must all agree that they are not conducting any religious gatherings until Covid-19 is out of the way.

If ever there was a time we needed the church to be united, that time is now. The time to save your faithful, the time to show that you care, that time is now.

SENSITISATION

No more church services, Bible study fellowships and mass until Covid-19 is crushed. We cannot afford to have another Sunday — tomorrow — in which some churches will remain closed while others conduct mass.

Kenyans need to know that this thing is serious, and since they are not listening to the government or believe what they see in the media, then they surely must listen to someone.

That someone is you, their spiritual leader. So step up for your country; we need you.

Pastors, imams, sheikhs, church ministers, bishops, vicars, rabbis, priests, church elders, deacons, canons, cardinals, nuns, parish clerks, mummy and daddy pastors…you name it, you all must use your spiritual influence to speak with one voice and tell your faithful to a) wash their hands, b) observe social distancing and c) not to go to church without guilt-tripping them. We must use every resource we have.

In the age of high technology and mobile phones, call your members. Text them. Use your Facebook page.

Send WhatsApp messages to share the message of hope in these uncertain times but more importantly, to use the words in Matthew 28:19, ‘Go ye, and teach all nations… about Covid-19.’

The writer is the director of the Innovation Centre at Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s own;