African faith communities take frontline action to combat Covid-19
Cape Town - As groups move to support people who are left vulnerable by the pandemic, African faith communities take front line action in mitigating the novel coronavirus.
As of 18 May, the African region has recorded 87,279 positive cases of Covid-19, 2,797 deaths and 33,948 recoveries.
“The situation (on the ground) is not good. People need a lot of psychosocial and material support. The role of the faith communities has never been this crucial,” said Dr Francis Kuria Kagema, general secretary of the African Council of Religious Leaders.
Last month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) also raised concerns saying it was likely that Africa could be the epicentre of the virus and push millions into poverty.
According to a statement by the World Council of Churches, faith centres and organisations are offering hope, while delivering humanitarian assistance and spiritual support.
It said that the United Nation Environment’s initiative, Faith for Earth, is recording some of the frontline actions of the faith-based organisations. The initiative is running a page that records actions and guidelines the groups are issuing worldwide.
“Faith-based organisations have been providing support to the health workers, reaching out to the poor, providing educational material on how to cope with the pandemic, offering digital religious services, conducting advocacy campaigns to protect their followers, launching projects to support children and the elders, and many other great works,” director of the Faith for Earth initiative, Dr Iyad Abumoghli, said.
In efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19, most of the faith communities have also shut their places of worship, including churches, mosques, synagogues and gurudwaras, according to the statement.
Religious leaders are also helping debunk misleading messages, such as myths by self-proclaimed prophets, telling people that the epidemic is God's punishment or the world ending.
Rev Fidon Mwombeki, general secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches said such views were misleading and very scary.
According to a pastor from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, a committee within the organisation was preparing a statement to educate people about misleading theologies and promote a theology of hope, and also guide on reducing stigma for those who are sick.
“There is a lot of stigma and discrimination associated with the disease. Those who have been infected are being stigmatised, but we want the churches to take a lead in welcoming back those who have been healed,” the pastor was quoted as saying.
Kagema said the religious leaders were supporting ministries of health in disseminating messages that help people understand the importance of empathy and non-discrimination.
“We are emphasising chaplaincy, pastoral care and counselling,” Kagema said.