Millions of Kenyans, including President Uhuru Kenyatta, are expected to attend a National Prayer Day today, not in person but virtually, as the nation grapples with social distancing and limiting of public events in efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
A tweet by State House yesterday asked Kenyans to “join His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta this Saturday 21, 2020 at 12 noon for a broadcast prayer service to mark the National Day of Prayer on the Coronavirus pandemic”.
State House spokesperson Kanze Dena said the inter-faith and inter-denominational service will involve over 20 clergy.
In the announcement, State House said prayers will be aired live on TV and radio stations and on digital platforms.
So far, dozens of mosques and churches have cancelled services to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Last Wednesday, President Kenyatta declared today a National Day of Prayer amid the worldwide outbreak of the new coronavirus, saying “we cannot ignore the need to turn to God” in these “circumstances”.
Deputy President William Ruto has also called on Kenyans to seek divine intervention over the virus.
“Even as we face the challenge of coronavirus, let us remind each other of the scripture, 2 Chronicles 7:14: ‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven,’” Dr Ruto said.
The move by the President, who is a Roman Catholic, to call for national prayers contrasts that of his father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, who never attended church services for the whole period he was Head of State.
In regard to his religious inclinations, Mzee Kenyatta told presiding Judge Ransley Thaker during the infamous Kapenguria Trial in 1953 that he was “agnostic”, or a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God.
Critics have slammed the President’s proclamation of a National Prayer Day, arguing that Kenya is not in trouble because people are not praying, but because of a public health crisis exacerbated by a government that has not taken seriously the health sector.
“Prayers won’t help Kenya combat the coronavirus pandemic. Let’s stop this superstition and return to science. This primordialism and naivete could wipe us off the face of the map,” Sunday Nation columnist Prof Makau Mutua tweeted.
Mr Kenyatta’s move is similar to calls for prayers by other world leaders.