These are fearful times, approximately 363 million people have been infected by COVID-19, nearly a quarter of a million have perished and billions of people are on lockdown or in self-isolation. Yet this pandemic and the fear, dread, and anxiety that it has induced has not occurred in isolation. For years, we have existed under the constant and pervasive feeling that things are getting worse, that we are failing each other and that we are failing our planet. This is amplified by a daily news cycle that reads like an ever-escalating drumbeat of anxiety. With climate change, war and conflict, isolationism and trade wars our world, at times, feels dark and lonely, and this is despite the many, many positive news stories that exist but that rarely get attention.
No one doubts that COVID-19 is one of the direst threats the world has ever faced. And yet, amidst the confusion and anxiety, there are ever stronger signs of hope and solidarity, a sense of, and desire for, togetherness. It is this spirit of global togetherness that gives us hope. In this time of crisis, we are all neighbours in the world, and success will only be achieved when all people, in all countries, are protected. Thankfully, this shared sense of responsibility has seen a world come together in ways that we have not seen for some time. People seek out a light at the end of the tunnel and work to show, to each other, that we all stand together. We see this in the towns and cities around the globe where crowds cheer for healthcare workers, and where everyday people perform songs on social media to help lift spirits.
The pandemic has led to the development of COVID-19 vaccines to prevent death and severe complications. As a preventive measure, the government has taken quick action to ensure people are vaccinated and that there are enough vaccines. COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective and offered free of charge to the eligible population. COVID-19 vaccination helps prevent severe illness and death caused by the disease. By being vaccinated, one is protected and so is the whole community and this slows down the spread of the disease. Higher vaccination rates make outbreaks less likely, this, in turn, reduces the need for preventive measures such as curfews, lockdowns and movement restrictions.
The Inter-Religious Council of Kenya (IRCK) is playing a key role in creating awareness and addressing the myths and misconceptions among the people through Religious Leaders. They are using places of worship such as churches, mosques and temples to create awareness and as vaccination centers. In partnership with the Ministry of Health and UNICEF, IRCK signed a commitment to have places of worship used as vaccination centers. The government has very strict guidelines for this where, when, and who is to be vaccinated thus is important for people to learn them and follow them.
It is important that credible community and Religious Leaders provide truthful information and are good role models by taking the vaccine themselves.
Communities must also stay informed and share facts on COVID-19 and avoid inaccurate information that is circulating hindering the uptake of the vaccine. IRCK in partnership with World Relief developed scriptural booklets and messages addressing the myths and misconceptions that Religious Leaders can use in places of worship as a guide. It is also important that trusted community leaders have this accurate information to inform people.
Some people are hesitant about taking the vaccine because of fear of the unknown. Adults are not accustomed to taking vaccines. People are afraid of the side effects of the vaccine, additionally, COVID-19 is still an unknown disease and it is important to let people talk about their fears. It is important that credible community and Religious Leaders provide truthful information and are good role models by taking the vaccine themselves.
Religious Leaders continue to spread messages of hope through different platforms including their congregational platforms for without ignoring the realities, we face, it is clear that the world is reaching for a positive message.
Amidst the pain that we continue to endure, we should find comfort in the stories of hope and solidarity, and continue to see the value in the positive, encouraging lessons that are emerging for our post-COVID world.
By Janet Mwende