Muslim community urged to get vaccinated

The Muslim Community in Bulawayo is encouraging fellow members to vaccinate against Covid-19 but will not force anyone to do so, in preparation for the reopening of mosques.

This move comes after the Zimbabwean government announced last week Wednesday that only fully vaccinated people could attend church services, which observers said could see vaccine hesitancy trends evolve among some religious people who were sceptical of vaccinating.

Religious gatherings were banned under the Level 4 lockdown to control a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, among other measures, bans such as inter-city travel, public gatherings and shortening of business hours.

In an interview with CITE, local imam of the Makokoba Masjid, Alan Saidi Salanji, said Islam is a practical religion that adapted to different situations in order to keep people safe.

“We encourage people to go and vaccinate but we are not going to force it because it is up to an individual. But we see vaccination can be helpful to ward off the Covid-19 threat and we need to communicate this to keep people safe,” he said noting, “this is a matter of making sure people have the knowledge they need to protect themselves.”

Imam Salanji said the Muslim community would also abide with regulations set by the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the government.

“For now, some of our members have started sending us copies of vaccination cards but the numbers are not that high. Some are waiting for their second jabs, having done the first we anticipate more will submit in the coming weeks,” said the local imam.

He noted that before the pandemic, a service at the mosque would see between 40 to 50 people attending services and prayers.

“With social distancing, we went down to 30 but since we might have low numbers in coming weeks, we may have more space for social distancing,” Imam Salanji said.

Imam Salanji indicated that the Islam religion was based on helping others and if vaccination was meant to help people, it should be encouraged.

“We aim to help people and support initiatives that help others. When it comes to vaccination, we hope it will help people as we see in other countries, that vaccination seems to be helping protect people,” he said.

The local imam also encouraged members to follow and fulfill the health requirements set about by the authorities to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“Wear your face masks and wash your hands. To our members, they must please note that praying is not banned, it’s only gatherings that are banned. So please let’s not miss our prayers at home, it’s for our safety,” he said.

“If you are not well even though you have a vaccination card please avoid coming to masjid. The elderly must be supervised as well to make sure they stay safe.”

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Bulawayo, Alex Thomas, in a circular said the Roman Catholic Church had “no option than to follow the regulations” regarding the opening of churches.

“Almost all of us have been waiting eagerly to return to our regular church activities. With the new regulations by the government of Zimbabwe only fully vaccinated people are allowed to be in the Church services.  We have no option than to follow the regulations. Kindly bear with the inconvenience and follow all the requirements,” Archbishop Thomas said

Children and youth were advised to wait until the schools were allowed to open before they could also attend church services.

The archbishop said priestly ordinations had also taken long.

“This too we have been waiting for long. With the new regulations in place we will have the ordinations on August 21 2021 at St Mary’s Cathedral Basilica starting at 11 am,” Archbishop Thomas noted.

“The candidates themselves decided not to wait any further in case lockdowns might be re-introduced, only fully vaccinated clergy, religious and laity can be allowed into the church for the same. I am sure this might compromise the situation of some parents and relatives of the candidates. Once again bear with us for the inconvenience.”

Archbishop Thomas also took note of confirmations, saying some parishes had already booked for the confirmations hoping to do so when the churches opened.

“Again most candidates are not fully vaccinated and this compromises the situation. Therefore we need to wait a little longer for the situation to stabilise.”

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