By Nkosana Dlamini
Zimbabwean churches have come out in full cry over a unilateral government decision to reopen church doors for physical worship only for fully vaccinated parishioners.
In a statement Thursday, the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) said the directive was both impractical and a theological travesty.
After months of a ban on church sit-ins due to the ravaging Covid-19 menace, government on Wednesday finally allowed the country’s giant congregation to troop back places of worship.
Police were quick to declare they stop at nothing to enforce the unpopular directive.
Reacting to the government position, the church leader said while the decision to open up the church was welcome, it was theologically incorrect for authorities to place barricades between the Lord’s dwelling and His children.
“Theologically, the church is an open and welcoming space for everyone with no restrictions. No one qualifies for church service as it is a place of God’s grace,” part of the statement read.
“The church will find it very difficult to turn people home because they do not have a vaccination certificate.
“However, would it be responsible to meet in an uncontrolled environment where possibilities of spreading the virus are high?”
The church leaders said it was also impractical for the church to enforce the discriminatory order on its members, some of whom have different conditions that did not allow them to get vaccinated.
“Practically, less than 10% of the population has been vaccinated. There is a group of citizens that does not get vaccinated due to age or because they have not yet had a chance to be vaccinated. It will be difficult for the church to deny people to receive the means of grace simply because they have not been vaccinated when access to this vaccination is restricted.”
The church leaders said they were several “grey areas” to be clarified by authorities to allow the new directive to be implemented hassle free.
“The ZHOCD recommends that the Ministry of Health and Child Care is asked to provide the detailed protocol for reopening churches clarifying all the grey areas such as how the licence affects those below the age of 18 who are not being vaccinated.
“Decisions relating to the Church could be enriched if Church representative bodies were consulted before the announcement.
“The ZHOCD recommends that churches be included in the National Covid-19 taskforce so that they can contribute to decision making from their lived experience,” said the church leaders.
Government is keen to get at least 60 percent of the national population vaccinated for the killer disease but due to continued apathy by many locals, authorities have now employed tougher measures to marshal citizens to vaccination centres.
These include blocking access to workplaces and other buildings to those who are not yet vaccinated.
In its Thursday statement, ZHOCD urged authorities to instead follow the persuasive route to get the population vaccinated.
ZHOCD comprises the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe and the Union for Development of Apostolic and Zionist Churches in Zimbabwe Africa.