Churches must help to fight Covid-19

Leader of the ZCC Church Barnabas Lekganyane. The writer calls on all churches to exercise their power of influence to help fight the Coronavirus crisis in which we find ourselves.
Leader of the ZCC Church Barnabas Lekganyane. The writer calls on all churches to exercise their power of influence to help fight the Coronavirus crisis in which we find ourselves.
Image: Picture credit: Sydney Seshibedi

Tomorrow church leaders affiliated to the South African Council of Churches (SACC) will meet to determine how to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following President Cyril Ramaphosa's declaration of a national state of disaster on Sunday, several churches have suspended gatherings until further notice.

Many have chosen to be innovative, making use of new technology to preach sermons, rather than gather in large numbers which may increase the risk of members contracting the virus.

Naturally, the cancellation of church gatherings in the run up to the Easter celebrations has been unsettling to many who observe the religious holiday.

But we must all be mindful that these are extraordinary times, which require drastic measures to protect all of us.

For this reason, questions about whether the annual Zion Christian Church (ZCC) Easter pilgrimage will go ahead next month are most pertinent.

The ZCC pilgrimage is one of the biggest religious gatherings in Africa. The event attracts millions of faithful to Moria yearly.

By virtue of these numbers, a gathering of this nature makes those in attendance particularly vulnerable to exposure to the Covid-19 virus.

In a circular to its ministers and branches yesterday, the church called its clergy, including members who are doctors and nurses, to a task team meeting on Saturday. This suggest that it plans to go ahead with the pilgrimage.

If indeed this is the plan, it is unclear what informs its posture, particularly as it would appear in direct contrast to the call by the government to encourage social distancing, and to limit gatherings to under 100 people. Let us be clear.

Our constitution affords all of us the right to religious association and worship. This is not the issue.

However, as the citizens we also have an obligation to exercise our rights, religious or otherwise, responsibly.

Such a responsibility is even more heightened in times of crisis, where our actions could have a lasting impact, even on those who fall outside of our social circles.

We therefore call on all churches to exercise their power of influence to help fight the crisis in which we find ourselves.

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