By: Clyde N.S Ramalaine & Bishop EA (Manny) Niekerk
It is day eight of the Covid-19 lockdown we in South Africa find ourselves with church life facing its third week of uncertainty, or in muted expression. On an annualized calendar of church life, we are a week before the most significant week in the Christian Church Calendar, a week that coincides with the Jewish Passover which from a historical setting is the base for the Christan Passover Celebration week. Having to engage and counsel local pastors and church leaders in SA and abroad we anticipate we have entered a season we may never have been in before. In this season we are compelled to improvise in finding creative and innovative ways as a means to give effect to the new world thrust upon us. In a sense we should accept church-life and life in general in many ways register a redefined space and we are not sure what the full ramifications for that will be.
As members of the clergy we woke up this morning with a few nagging and troublesome questions. While we have many questions for a variety of audiences that includes from the President to virologists key among our engaging in questioning is the religious group that sanctioned the idea of church closure in this season. Our questions, therefore, are aimed at those religious leaders who were invited to a meeting with the president in particular on Thursday, March 26, 2020, when a decision to shut the church services in numbers down since these naturally spell conducive environments for the spreading of the coronavirus as advanced. This morning we wonder if the religious leaders who met with President Cyril Ramaphosa engaged him on the set of questions we in this musing attempts raising.
We want to know did the religious leaders broach the subject of Technology immanent in 5G Towers being rolled out globally and in SA as to the effects thereof on the population’s health? Did the clergy clear all perplexing uncertainties in regards to, proposed vaccines shortly to be administered en-masse to our people? Did religious leaders ventilate a conversation on the subject of the safety of the advocated tests that government is undertaken essentially in township communities as to the definitive implications thereof?
If the above were entertained in the deliberations between the president, his team and the clergy, can the necessary detail and information be made available to assist wider audiences of South African citizenry? If these were not engaged may we know why it was not a priority given the fact that public discourses on the subject are readily available? Regardless of the clams of conspiracy theories as questions of this nature are often reduced to, we need to engage these in sobriety and with a sense of objectivity. If it was not entertained are we to deduce that it is expected of us to remain ignorant on the subject matter as dominant narratives lead a muted conversation of 5G.
Are we to remain oblivious of the obsession of the ever-presence of Microsoft founder Bill Gate’s unique interest in having Covid-19 infected people micro-chipped future reference? Should the church not be aware or concerned that the idea of placing RFID microchips into people’s bodies is becoming more and more pronounced?
On another level, we have publicly learned that there are attempts as advanced by a group of French-led scientists who already have Africa as its target for the vaccines. We know that Jean-Paul Mira and Camille Locht are public in their suggestions that the new coronavirus vaccines be tested in Africa meaning the poor of Africa. The aforementioned scientists were speaking on the French TV channel LCI, when Mira suggested, “If I can be provocative, shouldn’t we do this study in Africa where there are no masks, no treatment, no intensive care? A bit like we did in some studies on AIDS. We tried things on prostitutes because they are highly exposed and do not protect themselves.” Instead of challenging the ethics and illogic for such an intention, Locht agreed with Mira, in saying: “You are right. We are thinking of a parallel study in Africa to use with.
Should we as church leaders just ignore Bill Gates and his advanced idea of starting with vaccines in Africa even though America and the United Kingdom have in registered numbers more infected people?
The pertinent question that confronts church leadership in this season is perhaps the question as to why we see no merit to firstly maintain a critical distance of reflection and to take a stand, to solicit answers to the growing challenges that arise from the introduction of vaccines with Africa as a testing site.
In one of the most recent addresses on Covid-19 President Ramaphosa informed us of Government’s intention to dispatch teams to do door – door visits to among others test people. We learned that very soon over 10000 volunteers will be knocking on the doors of South African citizenry. We want to know if the Clergy that met the president raised questions as to the genesis of the ten thousand volunteers, how these were recruited when there were trained, their qualified statuses, and if their assignment has a tender or contract agreement to it? We also need to know if these all were tested and presented a negative test result. Certainly in a nation where unemployment before the advent of Covid-19 registered an average of 29, 5% we warrant knowing if these volunteers will be paid?
Central to the entire Covid-19 and its subsequent lockdown is the confirmed fearmongering led by the media that leads frenzy. We as believers are confronted with the reality of Scriptural instruction not to fear as advocated in among others 2 Timothy 1: 7, For God, has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” In this context, the obligation was upon the clergy that met with the president to advocate what the scripture dictates on fear and in times of uncertainty.
Should we not know where the mobile medical laboratories set up for testing came from on such short notice? Churches were asked to shut the doors for normalised fellowship to ensure the protection and safety of God’s people, which was done… But the truth is, there are many things, currently unfolding happening which is not in the interest of God’s people, and we as church leaders are eerily silent about it. If we closed doors because we cared about the safety of God’s people, then we can’t be silent if we read and hear about things that may negatively impact God’s people.
We dare not walk in any dualistic morality on the subject matter at hand namely the safety of our people in the totality of threats beyond covid-19. How dare we be silent when the military and police services abuse the poor in exclusive historical apartheid townships? We had expected the president to be unequivocal that the behaviour of the military and police was wholly unacceptable and that he had met with the minister of defence and police and have called for the heads of those who defied his orders to treat the people humanly. Why are the groups of clergy that agreed to the lockdown silent on the matter of abuse of the poor? Have we honestly asked how practical demands for social distancing in spaces such as informal settlements are? More so where are the clergy who agreed to advise and counsel the president that this is not acceptable?
Where are all the vocal foundations that know how to run to courts when blacks are accused of corruption but now these are silent to defend the poor who are necessarily black? We would be hypocrites for maintaining double standards.
We see how the State’s haphazard Hollywood style reporting on the Covid-19 often permanently overshadowed by the personalities of certain politicians continues to fail to articulate a coherent plan led by a thought-through communications strategy that is necessarily sensitive to the economy manifold languages of our people. We ask what is to be deduced from the fact that Minister Mbalula was checkmated by the Taxi industry and forced into rethinking the adopted regulations that define public transport as it relates to the mini-bus industry. Mbalula with speed made the amendments.
Is it not possible that the church equally so could have in a unified sense made its case for the doors of the church to remain open in crisis as refuge centres of hope. In a time of great panic, insecurities and doubts the gathering of the saints as we saw from inception in the book of Acts constitutes more than a nicety but an imperative to assist the realising of a meaningful life.
It must be a challenge that in the hour of greatest need the church doors remain shut in fear of being the place of infection, shut-in hope of fewer infections shut in compliance to a less engaged decision. May we add, the Minister of police in his briefing on Friday informed us that hitherto the police after one week of Covid-19 lockdown have registered 87000 calls on gender-based violence incidents? While these are not all confirmed cases we can already see the impact of the lockdown and the doors of the church a vital role player and centre of hope in the substance of family life remains shut.
Our last question to the clergy whom we have to assume are in concert with an unfolding one world-order-system, will you when summoned by the president / state to be informed of the need to have everyone microchipped or marked as forewarned in biblical writ equally so argue for an uncritical obedience and a compliant church? We shall remind our colleagues the church was at its finest in crisis from its persecution in ancient Jerusalem as hated by the ruling regime. Its prophetic call lives not in the absence of crisis but is actualised in troublesome periods where it in the spirit of the Old Testament Hebrew boys of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refuse to bow. The Church in prophetic sense must be able to tell the state we must first enquire from our God and if he says no it will be no. The church dare not be afraid and merely regurgitate fear but in the face of impending crisis must unequivocally declare we will obey God more than men regardless to the cost.
Is it not time we rethink and approach the subject of the role of the church in this instance differently?