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
PASTORAL LETTER ON THE CORONAVIRUS DISEASE (COVID-19)
20 March 2020
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
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.
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).
COUNCIL OF CHURCHES IN ZAMBIA
Rev. Canon Emmanuel Chikoya