When the year started no one could have predicted the turn it would take come March 2020. The first case of Covid19 in Kenya was announced on 12th March, 2020; the case of a Kenyan citizen who had travelled back to Nairobi from the United States of America via London, United Kingdom on the 5th March 2020. As expected this caused a lot of panic, anxiety and misconceptions among Kenyans. Mosques, Temples and Churches were closed as directives of social distancing, avoiding of crowded areas among others were announced by the government. It was time for leaders to stand up and be counted; religious leaders are tasked to protect the divine breath within every human being at all cost for they are deeply rooted in the communities they serve and it is in difficult times like the COVID-19 pandemic that they need to respond to community needs in different ways for it is their calling. In light of this African Council of Religious Leaders (ACRL) partnered with the Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) to implement a Project dubbed ‘Interfaith Response to COVID-19 in Kenya’ that was implemented through IRCK. The project aimed at creating awareness and supporting faith communities in Kenya in dealing with the Corona virus Pandemic.
In order to reach Kenyans Religious leaders recorded video and audio hope messages and guidelines from the government and health experts for main stream broadcast and Social media platforms.”
In order to reach Kenyans Religious leaders recorded video and audio hope messages and guidelines from the government and health experts for main stream broadcast and Social media platforms.Tweet
As expected Kenyans embraced digital platforms; and the faith community wasn’t left out; sermons, masses, announcements and meetings all went digital. In order to reach Kenyans Religious leaders recorded video and audio hope messages and guidelines from the government and health experts for main stream broadcast and Social media platforms. These Messages aimed at delivering hope and assurance to the public as well emphasising the need to adhere to the government and WHO guidelines on prevention of COVID. This included debunking misconceptions and myths that people had on the pandemic. The messages were developed with supporting scriptural/theological references.
E-posters were also designed in Swahili and English for the youth audience then were disseminated through Twitter and Facebook. Online campaigns were launched to share, reinforce and increase message utilization by engaging interfaith youth which ensured that a larger audience was reached with messages.
The messages were taken up by UNICEF and the National Emergency Response Committee and were aired on TV stations under Zuia Corona intervention. IRCK is working in collaboration with the National government through the Ministry of Health (MoH) and other partners in the sector working on COVID-19 response to develop and disseminate messages of hope to the Kenyan public.
Through the interfaith response project, IRCK launched Jali Campaign which is an initiative of IRCK and the Kenya Tuitakayo Movement (KTM) that brings together religious, civil society, private sector and individual Kenyans to raise a food basket for Kenyans going hungry during this time of need. This campaign has seen Kenyans reach out to the initiative for assistance. Through the situation room of the Jali Campaign stories of people given hope by the initiative having being at the edge and almost taking their lives, people sleeping in the cold, people not having a meal for days were addressed. The Jali campaign continues to help hundreds of Kenyans from vulnerable families.
The wide dissemination of these messages by the Religious Leaders has led to widespread understanding of the COVID-19 and its prevention measures not only among the faith communities, but the wider Kenyans society as well.
The voice of religious leaders is critical and important as a voice of reason and hope during this difficult times.
By Mary N. Ndulili