What you need to know:
President Uhuru Kenyatta has called for a national prayer day. But aren't we shooting ourselves in the foot?
It would appear that your president wants to have a prayer day because of corona.
I don’t think I need to list the multiple reasons that this is a bad idea, but for the sake of our president, I will do it anyway.
First of all, Kenyans and our obsession with religion in times of trauma is ridiculous. We use religion to avoid the actual problems in society – such as criminal cases against our principals and post-election violence. We use religion to hide the deeply entrenched corruption in our systems that starts from the top, and trickles down to the murky bottom every time we let a politician take the podium in church. We continue to tell ourselves to turn the other cheek, when we should not be turning anything. Even the Bible itself says there is a time for everything, and yet we never seem to think there is a time for action.
Which brings me to your president. The time for action is now. It is not the time to have a nationally sanctioned prayer day for performative and pompous religiosity. The premier reason that comes to mind is mainly that this is taking valuable resources away from fighting this virus. We’re creating a whole event out of praying for the virus instead of fighting it. Really, the two can very easily go hand in hand. People can pray at home, and the funds that are undoubtedly going to be used for the prayer day (to set up the presidential dais, of course, for transport, for flowers and décor to commemorate the occasion, I don’t know how your government does these things) can be used instead at testing centres, to expand capacity (we are still at 200 ICU beds in private and public hospitals, according to Dr Ouma Oluga, the Secretary General and CEO of Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union) in hospitals running out of resources, and helping those in Kenya who will not be able to fight the virus in as insular manner as the stockpiling middle class.
There is no need for this prayer day because Kenyans who pray are already praying in their homes, every day. What we need to do is focus on not becoming Italy, Iran, Korea... this involves shutting down churches, mosques, weddings, funerals and all public gatherings all together! And isn’t this prayer day a public gathering, that will just give the virus more ground on which to breed? The whole fiasco defies logic. The resources going into Saturday’s prayer day can go into several useful things - making sure people get fed as they have to stay home, or following in the footsteps of Germany, making sure freelancers and those surviving off the gig economy don’t starve, subsidising testing costs, preparing the rest of the country for corona… why is this so obvious to me and apparently rocket science to your man at the top?
Honestly, it’s appalling to me in 2020 that my hard-earned money is going to fund some sort of farcical representation of our colonial legacy – praying for a country that, quite frankly, right now needs faith, backed by action, before there is no country to speak of.