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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

One Hour Limitation for Church Services Upsets Council of Churches in Zambia

Columns One Hour Limitation for Church Services Upsets Council of Churches in Zambia

The Council of Churches in Zambia is concerned and alarmed by the directive by the government to allow bars and night clubs to operate for longer hours while the Churches have been restricted to a maximum of one hour.

Yesterday, Local Government Minister said operating hours for bars will be reduced by 2 hours while Church congregations will be required to meet for an hour due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

In a statement, CCZ General Secretary Father Emmanuel Chikoya has since called on government to reconsider its position because it will create unnecessary agitation.

Father Chikoya says it is his organization’s desire to cooperate with the government during these challenging times but that pronouncements of this nature tend to make it difficult to convince their members to comply with government directives.

Father Chikoya says in a Christian nation, one would expect the Church to be regarded as a critical stakeholder which must be given preferential treatment compared to the bars and other places of leisure.

Below is the full Pastoral Letter


20 March 2020
Lusaka, Zambia

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord.

We greet you, as we pray together for one another, for our loved ones, and indeed for all God’s humanity in these trying times of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
We wish to begin by affirming the measures put in place by the Government of the Republic of Zambia that are aimed at combating the spread of the Coronavirus disease. As Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), we pledge our total commitment to work with and support the Government in combating this problem through up to the end of the pandemic in Zambia and world at large. And in response to the Government’s Statutory Instrument No. 22 of 2020, we call on all our member Churches to work and comply with the Government in the fight against this disease.

Having stated that, we have written this letter to share our perspective with our member Churches, Affiliates, Partners, other Stakeholders and the general public concerning the outbreak of the Coronavirus, also known as Covid-19 disease.

As a Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, we understand the effects of this outbreak on the people of Zambia and the world at large. We are in a scenario like that found in the book of Mathew 8:23 where the storms hit the boat on which the disciples were while Jesus Christ was asleep on the same boat. The storms were very strong and almost overpowered the boat. But the disciples knew who was with them in the boat and they cried out to Him; and he woke up and rebuked the storms. We wish to encourage everyone that we will be secure because there is hope in the Lord; we will take our rest in safety, (Job 11:18).

The Council of Churches in Zambia pledges its commitment to collaborate with the Government of the Republic of Zambia in service delivery, especially during outbreaks and pandemics. In-as-much-as we commend government for all the measures put in place in readiness for this pandemic, we propose that going forward let us be proactive enough and stand ready for emergencies such as this.

We, however, note with gratitude the measures put in place and pray as well as hope that all medical personnel and systems will rise to the occasion if and when necessary. Overall, we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to see us through to the end.

In view of the above, we would now like to address the following publics:

1. Government and other Stakeholders

1.1 Government

Working together with the Church and other concerted stakeholders, the Government of the Republic of Zambia must ensure that there is a restriction on unnecessary travel outside the country for all citizens. This is in addition to the closure of all schools in the country. The Government must further consider closing all our borders to non-citizens and allow only a few exceptions to cross into Zambia. We would also like to bring it to the attention of the Government that not all citizens can afford to buy for themselves hand sanitizers and soap for them to wash their hands as a preventive measure. In fact, some homes do not have access to clean and sanitation services which will make them more vulnerable to the Corona virus. We, therefore, appeal to the Government to come up with a mechanism that addresses these challenges.
We further call on the Government to ensure that there is proper stewardship and accountability of all donations and allocated funds for this programme, as well as cost-effective utilisation of the same.

We also advise that Pastoral and Chaplaincy services must be deliberately integrated into the interventions and responses to COVID-19. People who are affected and at risk require not only medical care but also Pastoral care, hence our request.

1.2 Health workers

We wish to assure our health workers in all health institutions across the country that our prayers are with you. During this period, you will be required to be on high alert and subsequently will be expected to work beyond your normal working hours.

Our prayer is that God will give you the strength you need and protect you from contracting the virus in your endeavour to serve lives. We encourage you to trust in the Lord and He will give you strength like that of an eagle.

We also pray that you will be supplied with all the needed resources and equipment to protect you and facilitate your work.

1.3 Political leaders

We wish to guide all our political leaders, both in the ruling and opposition political parties to avoid making political mileage out of prevailing challenges and for once come together and issue joint messages of solidarity for the good of Zambia. It is only by laying aside our selfish interest that we will quickly overcome the COVID-19 challenge.

When we unite victory is assured. As the Church we are, and will continue to pray for God’s intervention. We, therefore, plead with you that while we do our part, do your part as well by uniting as one force determined to overcome this challenge before all of us. We are all affected hence the need to work together as one team.

1.4 Traders and Business Communities

We wish to call on all traders of different merchandise, especially those in the business of supplying products such as hand sanitizers and soap products that this is not the time to overprice your merchandise.

Overpricing your merchandise will mean overburdening the already burdened citizenry due to the hard-economic challenges they are going through. Let us be considerate and avoid at all costs being greedy in our business. Let’s help everyone have access to the basic necessities in the face of the Coronavirus disease.

We, as Council of Churches in Zambia Secretariat, commit ourselves to continuously monitor and give you necessary updates until this pandemic is completely eradicated. We will also promote the interests and rights of Churches in the context of managing the COVID-19 virus.

1.5 The Media

We call upon all media houses and Journalists to carefully exercise their role of educating the masses about the Coronavirus disease by publishing official information.

1.6 Corporate entities and Cooperating Partners

We take this opportunity to thank and commend our Cooperating partners for their commitment and support in this fight against the pandemic.

2. The Christian faith Community

2.1 The Church

To our member Churches and the Church at large we need to practice holistic ministry by not only preaching and praying but join the government and all stakeholders in offering practical and supplementary support in our localities during and beyond this challenging time.

The Church of Jesus Christ must not only focus on preaching the gospel and neglect other areas of humanity. The Church must believe in holistic ministry, ensuring that all aspects of a human being are taken care of, that is, Spiritual, Physical and Emotional. In this case, let’s pray and work on ensuring that we protect and preserve human life. Let’s make the health aspect of Church members a top priority.

In the face of Coronavirus therefore, we call upon the Church to ensure that all instructions and guidelines by the Government are adhered to and announced in all the congregations. The Church commands a huge following, and will significantly contribute to preventing the spread of COVID-19 by sharing very factual and accurate information with courtesy of the Ministry of Health. The Church is one stakeholder Government counts on in the fight against this disease. While we do all we can to protect and preserve human life, let us make it a priority to pray for one another, Government, political and Church leaders and the nation as a whole for God’s intervention. Let’s us also pray for health workers in various health institutions.

2.2 The Clergy

In the Book of 2 Chronicles 12:32 were the men of Issachar who understood the times and what Israel needed to do. We wish to call on all Clergymen and women across the country to understand the times we are in and act accordingly in response to what is going on. This is a time when Science and the Word of God must work together to effectively serve the people of God from this calamity. To our member Churches, and indeed other Churches that would agree with us we recommend and instruct the following:

  • Beginning with Sunday 22nd March 2020 let us pray from an informed and proactive perspective for control and eradication of this pandemic.
  • Encourage people to go for medical attention and avoid contact while we are praying for them. Let us not tell our members to exclusively depend on prayer only. Let them get both prayer and medical attention from health facilities. The roles of the Church and medical facilities are complementary and not competitive.
  • We encourage our member Churches to consider suspending Holy communion during this period until the Coronavirus disease is completely eradicated.
  • Avoid handshakes and physical contact at all costs, including laying of hands on people while praying for them and exchanging greetings during peace.
  • Overnights must be discontinued with immediate effect until this pandemic is contained.
  • That all Church gatherings be shortened to not more than 1 hour in line with Government directive until our engagements with government are fully exhausted.
  • Ensure there is special care for the elderly and the sick in all our member Churches during this period.
  • All member Churches of the Council of Churches in Zambia that run health facilities must make them available in collaboration with the Government until the disease is completely eradicated.
  • Ensure the highest levels of hygiene by sanitising Church premises as well as providing hand washing facilities at strategic and visible locations.

This is wake up call for the Church to seriously consider investing in IT and technologies that could be used during moments like this.

In the meantime, we urge the Church to fully utilise existing social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and saturate the country with messages of Hope. Creative infographics are a must as we weather the storm of COVID-19.

2.3 The Church members and general citizenry

The deadly Coronavirus which we thought was confined only to China and other countries is now a reality. Despite this, however, we want to assure that God is telling us to be still and know that He is God – Psalm 46:10.

Our call is that do not panic or be moved by the increasing number of the Coronavirus disease cases. Trust in God for He is with us.

Instead of panicking, make every effort to follow strict personal hygiene so you prevent the transmission of the disease. Adhere and follow all instructions and guidelines being shared by the Government and other authentic stakeholders and pray for God’s intervention. Let’s be each other’s keeper by loving one another in the same manner we would love ourselves. Let’s do unto others as we would love them to do unto us. This means we must take care in the manner we interact with others in public places and even in our homes in order to ensure we are all safe from contracting the virus.

Kindly take note of the following emergency lines for quick contact in the event you suspect you or another person has COVID-19:

Let us also avoid panic buying of essential goods and food stuffs as this will escalate the cost of the commodities.

3. Our Concern

We are very concerned and alarmed by the directive that allows bars and other places to operate longer hours while the Church has been restricted to a maximum of one hour. We wish to call on the government to reconsider this position because it creates unnecessary speculations and agitation. It is our desire to cooperate with the government during these challenging times but pronouncements of this nature tend to make our work of convincing our member Churches to comply with government directives extremely difficult. We call upon government officials to be very consistent and clear in their pronouncements.

In a Christian nation one would expect the Church to be regarded as a critical stakeholder which must be treated better that the bars and other places of leisure. It must be noted that the Church also contributes directly and indirectly to national development.

4. Conclusion

We affirm the call in a Pastoral letter to World Council of Churches (WCC) member Churches and ecumenical partners by General Secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit and WCC Moderator Dr Agnes Abuom, in which they urge people to give highest priority to doing whatever they can to protect life and that this is the time to touch each other’s hearts, by what we say, what we share, what we do, and what we do not do to protect the life God loves so much.

We also affirm the following prayer:

God of life – lead us to justice and peace as well life! This is the God we believe in together, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God is our creator, our Saviour and our life giver.

To pray to the God of life means that we as churches together stand firm on the side of life, together with our lord and shepherd Jesus Christ who did everything to protect life and who gave his life for us. (Adapted from the World Council of Churches-WCC pastoral letter).


Rev. Canon Emmanuel Chikoya

[Read 2,244 times, 3 reads today]


  1. Wait until it starts spreading, same mistake Italy made with her citizens. Just close down everything for now, pray at home with your families and buy your beer from the supermarket and go drink at home. We do not have the capacity to handle this Coronavirus. I’ve just comeback from Germany, my temperature is normal but I’m going to quarantine myself for 14 days and I won’t go to church because God gave us brains to be good judges of situations and not test his ability to protect us. I don’t belong to any party but let us make the government‘s work easier and it is also our responsibilities not to put our families and friends in danger by being careless. Both the western and eastern countries are not coming to our aid because they are equally overwhelmed and you have no idea the magnitude…

  2. This is not a competition . I am disappointed with the churches. Let us please work with each other to reduce this scourge. Churches have larger followings than bars in Zambia. So respect that decision

  3. All bars, nightclubs, discos, church gatherings and any other gatherings should be stopped for now.

    Look at measures European countries have put in place, they include churches and mosques, etc.

    Be wise, meet the government halfway by suggesting a suspension of Church meetings and services.

    Faithful Church members will still give their tithes and offerings.

    Save lives.

    • If it was Jesus, he could have stopped and healed the sick from Coronavirus. Unlike today men-of-God, just complaining in 10 pages.

  4. Let us put all measures in place to stop this disease from coming in, once it does start spreading heaven help us. No church gatherings, close all bars… If you want to pray no one is stopping you from praying at home, if you want to drink beer no one is stopping up you from drinking at home. Other areas of concern such as mini buses they need to stop overloading immediately restaurants need to wash their untensils properly and provide hand soap. Better safe than sorry this disease is no joke.

  5. For your information: In order to combat the spread of the virus, Bars, Theatres and Restaurants will remain closed until further notice.

    Ba PF, get serious!

  6. On behalf of the Zambian government I am worried about the wellbeing of Tarino. It is out of character for him to not comment every second. We may not see eye to eye on a lot of issues but as a representative for the Zambian government, we owe him a duty of care. It is sad for him to have left Zambia to seek asylum in.the UK only to be affected by a virus worse than cholera. Please anyone who knows his his whereabouts contact me. Kz

  7. I think government should just ban all gatherings instead of waiting for the uncontrollable to happen. Workers should be encouraged to work from home.

  8. Too many directives. Let Cesar have his portion. They should be praying over the nation and world instead of understanding the govt.

    DON’T CONFUSE PEOPLE. Even one hour is too dangerous. Let people worship at home. Let the Church organise itself to run prayer services on broadcast media, TV, radio. That’s why we have ZNBC as a national tool.

  9. They should be praying over the nation and world instead of undermining the govt.

  10. Bars and Night Clubs combined have a huge economic impact. They ensure companies like ZB to effectively pay taxes and employ our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. It is income generated by these entities that is tithed and offerings are given to churches. The value chain is massive.

  11. Zambia should have secured it’s borders first – no entries/flights from certain regions. Current transmissions won’t be internal to internal. The temperature detectors are not enough. Those who have not yet developed symptoms may slip through and there are no robust guarantees of follow ups.

    The church does have a point if what I am reading is true. Why would you reduce operating hours for bars by 2 hours (meaning they can still run for several hours per day?) and order churches to only have an hour’s service? What’s the science? There is social interaction in both. When the internal transmissions take hold, what will happen? Taverns and traditional brews where calabashes are shared around?

  12. Here in the USA, schools, colleges, universities, bars, restaurants, shops etc have been closed and curfews have been instituted. Gatherings have been banned or restricted to less than ten people at a metre distance from each other. So, what’s wrong with church gatherings being restricted to one hour because doing so is going to save lives, rather than leaving the wrath of this virus on God’s feet alone. That’s why he gave us the ability to chose between right and wrong. Think for the poor people and stop trying to score accolades for nothing Rev Chikoya.

  13. Father Chikoya forgot one more verse Philippians 2:14-16 .
    Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…

  14. Zambia is a Christian nation, but some men of God have no wisdom. I have no more to type here. Close bars too. Just allow for take out beer.

  15. A long “pastoral lletter”, was it necessary? Or Chikoya wants to exhibit his literary skills? Wrong forum wrong time.
    But of course the majority of us want bars closed, fortunately the bar patrons have some sense and most are not patronising bars now.

  16. why cant government close all airports and borders then begin closing the usual gatherings. airports and borders are the huge gates to control COVID.


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