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NJOROGE: Justice, peace and reconciliation still relevant today

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By Fr LAWRENCE NJOROGE
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Luke the evangelist proclaims that, immediately after Jesus’ birth, a host of angels traversed the skies in song and jubilation: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to all people of good will” (Lk 2:14). Jesus Christ was born into a world sharply divided along political, religious, economic, ethnic, family and even recreational lines.

The Jews were colonised by the Romans. While some groups like the Herodians collaborated with the oppressors, others, notably the Zealots, resisted and plotted rebellion.

On the religious front, the Pharisees and Sadducees were bitter rivals. St Paul once cleverly exploited those differences to further his cause by asserting that he was “a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees” (Acts 23: 6). The Pharisees at the meeting immediately declared him innocent and demanded his release.

When St Luke wrote that the world needed reconciliation and peace during Jesus’ time, he was addressing a felt need in the real world.

The Christmas season begins on December 24 with evening prayers or vespers and ends on the Sunday after January 6. It focuses on the incarnation, or God becoming human, also known as “the Word became flesh (John 1:14)”. This is one of the tenets of Christianity as professed in the Apostles’ Creed.

The incarnation, meant to bring reconciliation and peace among humans, has generated controversies and deep divisions between Christians throughout the ages.

It was interpreted to mean that Jesus Christ is truly God and truly human, which seems paradoxical. Some early believers did not understand how this was possible. One school of thought, called Docetism, interpreted it to imply that Jesus Christ was simply God in the guise of a human being.

The opposing school held that Jesus was a human being so full of the Holy Spirit that God adopted him as his son. This is known as adoptionism.

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St Augustine, the African theologian born in Tagaste, Numidia, (in present-day Algeria) expounds on the incarnation by professing that when Justice looked down from heaven, Truth sprang from the earth. The cumulative result of the dynamics of this unique mystery is reconciliation and peace among humans (Augustine of Hippo, Homily, 185).

Drawing on the Lucan motif of people of good will, St Augustine urges human beings to embrace the incarnation celebrated at Christmas, or the Nativity, in which Justice looks down from heaven, to promote peace on earth.

The Christmas message encompassing justice, truth, reconciliation and peace that was valid in Jesus’ time remains relevant today.

On the political front, this time last year, Kenyans and foreigners had their hearts in their mouths, not knowing what would follow in the event of the swearing in of the “People’s President”. This time round, with the “handshake”, the political climate is different. One hopes and prays that there is a genuine fund of good will, like that celebrated by the angels on the first Christmas, as our leaders make deals and arrangements in matters of governance.

The Christmas message of justice, truth, reconciliation and peace applies to individuals and institutions, including the Church. The Church in Kenya is undergoing trial and tribulation as it agonises over the recent killing of Fr Cosmas Omboto Ondari of the Mill Hill Missionary Society in Cameroon, and that of Fr John Njoroge Muhia of the Archdiocese of Nairobi murdered in Kinoo, Kiambu County.

The atmosphere is like a throwback to the divisions, hatred and conspiracies surrounding the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot. It is the kind of milieu that is crying out truth, justice, reconciliation and peace.

Wishing You a Peaceful Christmas and a Prosperous 2019.

 Fr Lawrence Njoroge lectures in development studies and ethics at JKUAT, where he is the Catholic Chaplain.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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