Nairobi, March 31 (Standard) – A virus-threatened nation turned to God for help yesterday as it entered a defining week in the ongoing fight to keep the killer coronavirus at bay.
Leading the prayers, President Uhuru Kenyatta, in his own way, let Kenyans have a peek into the state of preparedness of the country over the pandemic.
Streamed live from the plush lawns of State House Nairobi in what resembled some form of United Nations of churches, religious leaders, invited for the occasion by the Head of State, asked God for forgiveness and to deliver the nation from the threat posed by the coronavirus.
Leader after leader, just fell short of blaming the spread of the virus on humanity turning its back on God and sinning with President Kenyatta answering critics who took fault with his administration for calling for a prayer day at a time when the country was battling to keep the spread of coronavirus in check.
“There are those who are saying that we should depend on science, not prayers. But I want to assure you that even science needs God. A nation prospers when a nation trusts in its maker,” the president said in a short address after the ceremony
.“Let us continue to pray for healing, understanding, and prosperity. Our God is a hearing God and He will grant us our desires and our wishes.
”The guest list for the event that was just shy of two hours was composed of the who is who within religious circles as well as the Deputy President, some members of Cabinet and political leadership. The underlying theme for the event was the apparent sinning and rebelliousness of man from the word of God.
“When the children of God strayed away he would allow calamities to ravage their world,” Anglican Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit said during the function.
Sapit however also called on Kenyans to remain hopeful during these times of the virus.
“This is a moment where we need to gather and keep hope alive. Moments such as these sometimes dampen our spirits. Hope is what we cling on to even on this day when we gather to worship God,” he said.
Sapit also said the world had been moving away from God’s word.“Liberalism and capitalism have taken us away to a place where we think we can deal with our own issues… we are being reminded that it is not about us. There is a god in charge and in control,” he said.
Collectively, the men of God prayed against selfishness, greed, bad politics, corruption and lawlessness that could have contributed to the global plague.
“We want to confess our misdeeds and mischief’s in this country. We know these are the things that have attracted your wrath to this country,” said Samuel Makori. “People are dying for lack of food while others are dying from too much food.
”The prayer sessions were punctuated by commentary from the masters of ceremony for the day, Catholic Bishop Anthony Muheria and David Oginde of Christ is The Answer Ministries.
Often, hymns, such as the popular tune of “uninyunyuzie maji, originally sang and performed by Our Lady of Fatima Kongowea Catholic Choir cut through the stiff air. Others, such as the dirge-like “it is well with my soul” brought to terms the poignancy of the occasion and the times were getting into.
Chief Justice David Maraga, who wasn’t too far from the choir, was singing along. The mood and significance of the occasion at the centre of his worship.Barely a week ago, CJ Maraga announced that court activities would be reduced and that prisoners and remandees would not be presented to court.
A few metres from him was the National Assembly Speaker JB Muturi whose House stands adjourned and a number of members on self-quarantine. To the left of President Kenyatta was his Deputy Ruto, who has in the recent days alluded to clandestine plots against his ambition to succeed his boss.
Collectively humbled by the occasion, they all looked meek in the eye of the corona strife. Some of the prayers made were those of reconciliation and tolerance among the political leadership.
“We pray for our attitude of intolerance with one another, violence in our society, hatred in our hearts, for greed, selfishness and promoting negative tribalism,” read one prayer block on the official program for the day.
Only a coffee table separated DP Ruto from his friend turned foe Raila Odinga. For Raila, the rapid spread of the virus has meant that the reggae tunes he had grown accustomed to dancing to every weekend had finally been stopped
.A public order banned all public gatherings, which included political rallies such as the nationwide Building Bridges Initiative tours, and invalidated handshakes too.
But the well-intentioned men of God cannot be the nation’s first line of defence against coronavirus. The sins they prayed for were valid. The forgiveness they asked for and granted by God was welcome. But there are other ways we can stay safe.
The first is social distancing. And the men of God, some of the frequent flyers, sat less than a metre from each other. Every breath, landing on a neighbour’s cheek.“Please adhere to the advice from health practitioners. Let us pray for forgiveness but we listen to what they say. The virus is not far from us. Let us protect each other,” Bishop Kivuva said.
When the prayers faded into the chorus of common prayer by all those in attendance, it was on President Kenyatta’s shoulders that the greatest responsibility lay.
Kenya’s borders have been breached and Kenyatta and his government’s reactions in the coming days will be crucial to the nation. Last Sunday, he ordered learning institutions shut, and for employers to allow workers to work from home.
By the time the prayers ended, positive coronavirus cases in the country stood at 7.
The choir took back the stage, belting Kenya daima, again, the advice of social distancing by the scientist and Bishop Kivuva getting lost in the moment.
The VIPs quickly left the venue. There was little room for side interviews with the media as is the norm on such occasions.
While the prayer day may have sought to calm a section of the country, it still swept under the carpet some key issues that President Kenyatta’s office ought to address. The sooner his administration addresses them, the safer the people will be.