Reservations on churches reopening only for fully-vaccinated congregants

Christians in Bulawayo have expressed reservations on the recent government pronouncement to the effect that only fully vaccinated congregants should resume attending church services as part of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Speaking during a post-cabinet media briefing Wednesday, Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa said churches found to be in violation of the new regulation would be dealt with accordingly.

“Cabinet wishes to inform the public that churches can now allow sit-in congregants under the following conditions: only congregants who have received two doses of the vaccine are allowed to attend,” said Mutsvangwa.

“All Ministry of Health and Child Care and WHO protocols are adhered to, and all those found in breach will be arrested, including the leaders of the churches.”

 Sindisiwe Ncube said she is of the view that the government’s decision was not well thought of.

“Maybe they want to get many Christians vaccinated; I don’t know,” she said. “Christians have got so many beliefs, theories like the end-time message that there will be the mark of the beast and all those beliefs. At the end of the day if you kind of put those rules and regulations it will sound like the end of time message but then the government should find a better way to get more Christians or church-goers vaccinated.”

She added: “I am not so sure which way but they should rope in pastors to talk about these vaccines so that they can get more congregants vaccinated.”

Mthulisi Ncube said he believes the fight against Covid-19 had turned into spiritual warfare, hence the need for believers to freely congregate and ask God for intervention.

“However, the double dose is a bit too much as some Christians are not yet fully vaccinated,” he said.

Vusumuzi Chirwa said allowing only the fully vaccinated to attend church services is akin to Satanism.

“Churches have always maintained social distancing and adhered to all other Covid protocols, so why being harsh on the church,” questioned Chirwa.

“But these are the end times prophecies being fulfilled; it’s time we understood that the real church of Christ can’t be locked down, it’s a divine and spiritual church in us, not the physical buildings. The announcement violates not only human rights but spiritual rights as well.”

He added: “Vaccination is said to be voluntary not compulsory. Why can’t they allow by-elections and ask only the vaccinated to vote as well? This is satanic hypocrisy!”

Sipho Nyoni said the government is overstepping its mandate on deciding who should go to church, adding churches should be guided by WHO protocols of sanitising, social distancing and others.

“What needs to be understood by all and sundry, great and small alike, is that the church or the “ecclesia” is the bride of Christ,” said Nyoni.

“By virtue of being the bride of Christ, the church is one with Christ and hence as it exists here on earth it is the sole representative of God. What this government of ours is doing can be likened to a man who comes to a woman that’s not his wife or comes to someone else’s wife and instructs them on how they should be intimate with their husband or even goes further to instruct the wife on how she should arrange the marriage to her husband.”

He added: “That is totally anathema and unheard of. Even the least discerning or sensitive of persons can see that there is a much bigger and sinister agenda at play here.”

Social analyst, Mkhululi Tshuma said: “It’s extortion at its highest order. The government is trying to use unconventional methods to push its vaccination agenda. Results of a recent survey by Afrobarometer showed that people have more trust in church leaders than in political leaders.”

He said the government is trying to harvest from that trust by having the pastors push people to get vaccinated.

“Like I said last time, the challenge with this government is its failure to engage in dialogue,” decried Tshuma.

“It (the government) believes in commanding everything. As such even well-meaning programmes end up drawing unnecessary opposition because they are imposed on the people. Already the church is preparing to fight that directive.”

He added: “I believe it wouldn’t be so had the government sat down with church leaders and engaged them on the issue. It would have aided the vaccination programme.”

Meanwhile the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), an umbrella body for Pentecostal churches, yesterday said it was still deliberating on the government pronouncement after which a response would be given.

“We have noted the just-released government pronouncements on the double vaccination condition for religious gatherings,” said EFZ president, Bishop Never Muparutsa in a statement to members.

“We are currently urgently deliberating as leaders on this statement after which a comprehensive response shall be given which will take into consideration, among other things: (a) Our acknowledgement of government’s desire to contain the Covid-19 pandemic (b) our members’ varying positions on Covid-19 vaccinations and (c) the unavailability of enough vaccines to cover at least 60% of the population.”

Bishop Muparutsa added: “As we consult and formulate a response, we covet your prayers for wisdom on our part.”

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