• State requires that only a maximum of 100 worshippers be in the place of worship for an hour-long service.
• People aged over 58 and below 13 not allowed in church, a cleric cannot possibly send away faithful from church.
That the coronavirus pandemic has turned our world inside out is no doubt. And that we might not return to life as we knew it is beyond question. That said, among the most impacted institutions are the religious ones.
Some religious organisations have termed the guidelines for reopening issued by the inter-faith council on Covid-19 as impractical and discriminatory. While many people are quick to dismiss these concerns, they’re legitimate.
Some of the measures prescribed by the council, such as a maximum of 100 people – regardless of the size of the church – at any one point, are imprecise; and, from the position of men and women of cloth, punitive.
Punitive in the sense that their implementation is equal to impossible. Population notwithstanding, a church or a mosque, isn’t a political rally that you can ask a believer to abstain from and let others in.
It’s a question of reason versus faith. The truth is faith will, in most cases, carry the day. The explanation is simple; believers tend to bask in the sense of security that faith creates in the mind.
It’s scarcely possible for the police, operating as they do in the streets, to implement the social distancing rule in the middle of a prayer service.
Up until the days of Diocletian and Constantine I, religion in general and Christianity in particular, didn’t enjoy much influence. For a couple of centuries, Christians were routinely persecuted by Roman emperors who saw them as fanatical rabble-rousers who attempted to impose on the people unconventional beliefs that according to Roman authorities, amounted to gross superstition.
For people of faith, religion serves as a bulwark. This consolation theory attached to religion is best explained by Steven Pinker in his book How the Mind Works: a freezing person finds no comfort in believing he’s warm; a person face-to-face with a lion is not put at ease by the conviction that it’s a rabbit.
We should look for better ways of practising social distancing in places of worship to ensure safety for all.
Journalism student, Multimedia University of Kenya