Malusi Mpumlwana, the general secretary of the South Africa Council of Churches says some religious leaders are reluctant to abide by the government’s ban of not more than 100 people in gatherings, calling them “naysayers who are testing God”.
“Churches that refuse to do this could face charges of life endangerment because that is what it is. You are creating a situation where people will infect one another, and this is going to explode.”
Mpumlwana was briefing the media, along with several other religious leaders from different denominations, following a meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa in Pretoria on Thursday.
Mpumlwana cited reports out of South Korea, which said 60% of Covid-19 infections resulted from a church which refused to close its doors to congregants.
Unlike the situation in South Korea, Mpumlwana said, South Africa was facing other challenges, including HIV, TB and malnutrition.
“When it reaches our communities, it will be bubonic. We have to make sure our job is to preserve life. We appeal to naysayers who say it will never happen. Please, this is God’s will that we should work together to make it happen. People who are saying ‘let’s meet as much as we like, God will take care of us’, they are actually putting God to the test.”
The number of local South African infections had risen to 150, the president announced during a media briefing on Thursday.
He added that, while the decision to cancel major celebrations close to the Easter holiday was difficult, it was “absolutely critical and essential”.
In his address, Ramaphosa called on faith-based leaders to use more creative ways to reach out to congregants. He encouraged the use of internet streaming as an innovative way to conduct sermons.
Ramaphosa also called for religious leaders to create more awareness about hygiene and social distancing among their members and followers.
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