A section of clergy in Taita-Taveta County have called for a review of COVID-19 church re-opening directives as they complained against barring people aged over 58-years from attending church services terming the move discriminatory and a gross violation of the elderly’s freedom of worship.
Bishop Dr. Meshack Nyangala, overseer of Revival Powers and Reconciliation Ministries in Kenya, said although they had pleaded with the government to open churches, the restrictions imposed on services were so severe that they made it virtually impossible to conduct any meaningful worship services.
Speaking in his church in Voi on Tuesday, the cleric said the one-hour church service was not enough stating that Pentecostal Churches had elaborate religious program which took more than an hour per service.
Bishop Nyangala blamed the church’s new woes on what he termed as ineptitude of the Inter-religious council formed to review the re-opening of the churches.
“That the council can propose one hour for a church service shows how out-of-touch they are with reality. Any comprehensive preaching takes around 45 minutes so what worthy service to God will be satisfied by the one hour allocated?” he posed.
He accused the council, chaired by Catholic Archbishop Anthony Muheria, of misleading the government and asked the President to use his discretion to ease the rigid restrictions imposed by the council.
The cleric said most churches are likely violate the government directives as proposed by the council and asked them to be reviewed to allow everyone worship in peace.
On Monday afternoon, President Uhuru Kenyatta allowed the resumption of church services but with some restriction as per recommendations by inter-religious council. Amongst the conditions set for churches include barring people aged 58-years and above and children under 13 from attending church services. Also, the maximum number of people in a church should not exceed a hundred and a service should only last for an hour.
Bishop Nyangala, who is also the secretary for Council of Bishops in Taita-Taveta County, further called for overturning the decision to bar the elderly and the very young from attending church services terming as manifestly discriminatory. He argued that the same old people being barred from churches were allowed to go to banks, markets, supermarkets and travel from place to place using public transport.
“Our fathers and mothers are allowed to go anywhere but they cannot be allowed to go to church. This is blatant discrimination,” he asked.
Reverend David Zowe of House of Prayer said if the restrictions were not reviewed, most churches in the region would not open as pastors and preachers were well over the stipulated age limit.
He added that the interreligious council failed to consult widely before making its recommendations to the president hence the confusion.
“They goofed. This is not what we expected from those members. We hope the rules will be reviewed,” he said.
Afiz Nyambu, chair of Supreme Council for Kenyan Muslim (Supkem) Taita-Taveta branch urged the government not to discriminate against the old. He noted that Kenyans of advanced years still needed religious nourishment and asked the state to support churches to make places of worship for all.
“The highest percentages of those who attend churches especially in rural areas are the aged. It is not right to bar them from churches and mosques as long as they will adhere to health directives,” he said.