Loss, and damages caused by Covid-19 to families, economies, politics, faith-groups and social networks cannot be underestimated. we have been 'hit hard' as humanity. We have lost families, friends, community leaders, livelihoods, world equilibrium, meaning and purpose in life. The impact is immense, but looking at our current scenario, I can't help but reflect to on the words of Paul in 2Corinthian 4:8-10;
8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.
The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth to encourage them in the challenges they were facing as believers in Christ to give them hope. This same message is for all of us as humanity. I am aware that this sisterhood comprises of people from diverse faiths and backgrounds. I know they could have encouraging messages from sacred books that could speak to us in a similar way (i.e Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Confucianism, African, Traditional religion). May be there are those that do not subscribe to any religion, and they may equally have messages that could encourage us and tell us something in our struggle and give us hope in the face of covid-19.
As we remain comforted, we have afew things we might learn fromwhat is being experienced in the world, that might inform us in Africa, and particularly Kenya. We have social and cultural issues already arising that are related to COVID-19. it is helpful that we keep sharing and helping ourselves, and others to understand, to be informed, and made aware so that we can all know how best to respond to our current context related to ceremonies and rituals;
Grief: Grief affects many people in the family and community, but the process, is no-longer interpersonal. COVID-19 is limiting the familiar way of interpersonal-communal grieving and mourning in Africa. fewer people are actively involved as a representative of the collective.
Isolation: with lockdown and stay home, intentions to bend the curve limits our interaction that we are use to. we are not comfortable wit it. and it is okay not to be uncomfortable. but the best thing to remember is to stay safe.
Final Rites: Related to grief, preparation and burial of loved ones is equally challenged. instead of family and community, it is now a societal responsibility, done by governments through professional health workers. this is done while not observing the cultural values. Burial time is also challenged-evening/morning for older person or child respectively. mourning period reduced to hours is also challenging. communities mourn for weeks or months. positioning of the body and sacrifices are completely challenged. but health workers involvement is done in the best interest of the family of the bereaved. exposure to the infected dead is limited so as to prevent further infections to the living that might come in contact with the dead( normally, burials are attended by several people from villages-400-1000).
We re-imagine final send-off space where people who die through COVID-19 are given the 'human dignity they deserve' even when government is involved. we ask that families are kept in the loop so they may feel being part of the send of.
1. Weddings- physically present -to have a limited number of attendants, few meetings, and small after wedding celebration or none. options some people are having with few people or engaging technology to have virtual weddings. This alternative ceremony is less expensive, takes few hours, and prevents many from infections(normally weddings are attended by 500-3000 people)
2. Circumcision- for communities where circumcision is a communal event- alternative few people or tap on the wisdom of the elderly who recommend that it could be postponed due to a pandemic that involves mass deaths. we could also think of clinical circumcision done in hospitals.(African circumcising communal processions, singing, dancing day and night, eating together, social drinking, and meetings of age-sets are challenged)
How Might We Respond?
How might we respond to the prevailing circumstance we find ourselves in call us to re-imaginations! it is okay not to feel okay because times are calling us to make new ways to respond to the prevailing circumstance because the familiar ways do not hold any more, or better said make us more vulnerable.
We are called to re-imagine alternatives of our being in this world to come up with values and create alternative spaces for us and our children. we re-imagine how to be as African community in this world where what is 'normal, familiar, and acceptable are challenged . we re-imagine are called to reimagine and make new things that will make sense as we continue living as African community.
we can continue, join or start dialogue or conversations for alternative and non-threatening ways of being community in Africa. This also calls for sensitization and awareness creation on how to have alternative non-threatening rituals together, that will still make as be community together. This also calls for a paradigm shift in being family. and the how headship of family- changes to mean protecting loved ones from being exposed to covid-19, GBV, stress, depression homicide, infanticide or suicide. it means being okay, with non-interpersonal ceremonies. it also calls for understanding the spaces that our children find themselves in, and how to find meaningful ways to dialogue with them, listen to them, support them, and clarify some issues for them. it calls for us to love our families and friends, and all of us impacted by covid-19 in ways that we have never done before. we make home space safe space for all. we fellowship and share over meals, in our gardens, hallways, through our windows as we do social and physical distancing.
Fortunately, for our sisterhood, we have testimonies of how technology is serving us big time. we continue to re-imagine technological safe spaces where we can reach out, and remain safe as family , community an society. Recently, it was very uplifting to see faces of friends I haven't seen for a long time on Zoom. for those who did not have iPhone or laptops joining us on cellphones was very exciting alternative space to laugh, to cry, to counsel, to educate and to ask very difficult questions. skype space too is helping to connect with friends far and wide. I cannot forget to mention how many WhatsApp spaces are helping us. we send text messages and call in to check on friends and how they are doing.
There is a saying in Africa that when you fall, you fall forward. Covid-19 has hit us really hard, but as sisters, we fall forward. we kneel and wake up again with renewed strength . we will prevail! we dare to dream, yes, dream of a future for our children in this alternative space. a future of connections and community, a future that is a better tomorrow!
Join us as we respond to re-imagine and create these alternative beautiful and profound spaces for us all!
We are all welcome to contribute to this public discourse as we continue to sensitize, educate, edify and counsel for an alternative safe space for humanity.