Nairobi (Agenzia Fides) - "The Covid 19 pandemic has critically affected the social, economic and religious engagements adversely, because of the cessation of movements in and out of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi Counties as well as the dawn to dusk curfew that was imposed on the 27th March 2020 as containment measures to curb the spread of the Coronavirus in Kenya", says Fr. Bonaventure Luchidio, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) in Kenya.
"This situation has put a majority of Kenyans who live in the informal sectors at risk of hunger and malnutrition. This is because 48% of the Kenyan Population live from daily earnings through the informal sector jobs. Those in the formal sector have had to bear with the crunch of pay cuts of up to 50 % while others have been given unpaid leave which is indeterminate. All this circumstances leads to two main problems: hunger and stress in the families", says Fr. Luchidio.
"Even the Church - says the National Director of the PMS - is affected by the situation because it depends entirely on the Sunday offerings to run their operations and maintain the priests. Those in the rural areas bear the greatest burden because apart from them lacking the basic needs the community looks upon the priests and the religious in those areas for support and sustenance. This creates a scenario where the priests have to creatively journey with the parishioners through sharing the little they receive from well-wishers and people of goodwill".
The Special Emergency Fund of the PMS is therefore an initiative more than welcomed in Kenya. Father Luchidio says that "the funds are going to cushion the priests and religious who are locked in their houses from hunger and also give them an opportunity to reach out to the hungry citizens in their parishes who have camped in the parishes in search for food".
"Secondly, the funds will help the dioceses pay up for the staff who have been sent home on unpaid leave because the dioceses could not sustain them with their salaries every month. It has become tough for the Bishops to run their secretariats because of insufficient funds to pay the staff", says Fr. Luchidio.
"Thirdly, the funds will help in putting safety measures within the Churches and making the Churches compliant to the Government protocols so that when the reopening of the Churches is announced the Church premises will be able to conduct the service delivery within the guidelines of the Ministry of health"
Fr. Luchidio says that "the conference has set out a programme of appeal called "adopt a family programme" where a family feeds another family which is in need of food. Following the appeal by the Bishops to support the families that are in critical need, the people of goodwill organized themselves into groups and supported families by paying up for a meal for the families. We have experiences a lot of social cohesion and solidarity where people have opened their houses to welcome the needy neighbours who have been unable to pay rent, they have contributed towards food rations for the hungry families. Some have even gone out of the way to support priests in remote areas with food rations and upkeep so that they could reach out to the needy families". "These acts of charity and solidarity has touched the hearts of so many people and made them realize that the Gospel is actualized through charity", underlines Fr. Luchidio.
" This experience has taught us that indeed it is possible to feed 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and two fish", concludes the PMS National Director in Kenya. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 29/5/2020)