Kenyan churches, mosques shut as coronavirus infections increase
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Cape Town - Religious leaders in Kenya have suspended congregational worship and will be hosting services on digital platforms for the next 21 days.
This follows an increase in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases to seven.
According to a local newspaper, Daily Nation, the Presbyterian church in Nairobi announced it would be suspending Sunday services.
Citing a statement issued by the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA), the newspaper said the church was suspending meetings as well. It said the church would only be open for individuals who come for prayers.
The church, with over 4.5million members, has requested that congregants postpone weddings or limit attendance to only five people. This would include the bride, groom, best couple and the officiating minister.
“Funeral services should be attended only by the extended family. Viewing of the body should not be done at the mortuary to avoid people congregating. The entourage should go straight to the graveside or an open field with a short service of not more than one hour,” the statement said.
According to British broadcaster BBC, the All Saints’ Cathedral of Anglican Church, Christ is the Answer Ministries, Kenya Assemblies of God and the Nairobi Chapel have also suspended worship. The Jamia Mosque has also suspended congregational prayer, the broadcaster said.
The churches including the Presbyterian church would be making use of online digital platforms to host services. This includes live-streaming Sunday service on social media.
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta has declared Saturday a national day of prayer and has asked citizens to pray in their homes. A small service will be held at the State House in Nairobi and will be led by religious leaders.
In a statement, Kenyatta said the Covid-19 pandemic was a serious threat and that Kenyans shouldn’t ignore the need to turn to God.
“In these circumstances as we have done in the past as a nation, we have always turned to God first to give thanks for the many blessings that He has bestowed on our nation. But we also turn to God to share our fears, our apprehensions, but also to seek his guidance and ever-present protection,” said Kenyatta.
Meanwhile in South Africa, Hillsong Church has cancelled all gatherings.
In a statement issued by the church, it said as from March 22 services will be live-streamed.
"The physical health and well-being of our congregation is our highest priority. At the same time, it is vital to stay connected and to keep building the church community to ensure that our church family can remain planted in God's house during this health crisis and still have a great church experience. We will be live-streaming our Sunday services," the church said.
The Methodist Church of Southern Africa has cancelled its Easter services and the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) has cancelled its annual Moria pilgrimage.
Controversial Prophet Shepherd Bushiri has also suspended all physical gatherings at his Enlightened Christian Gathering Church.
Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, has also suspended church services.