Churches have questioned the government’s position to only allow vaccinated congregants to attend services saying the decision is ill advised and rushed.
The government announced earlier this week that churches should reopen and allow sit-in for those who are vaccinated while threatening to arrest leaders and followers who violated the order.
In a statement, the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) which consists of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe and the Union for Development of Apostolic and Zionist Churches in Zimbabwe Africa, argued that the pronouncement by the government will only worsen the health crisis if not addressed well.
However, the proclamation has received mixed reactions with many Christians, lawyers and moralists, saying the decision was rushed.
“Theologically, the church is an open and welcoming space for everyone with no restrictions. No one qualifies for church service as it is a place of God’s grace,” part of the statement read.
“The church will find it very difficult to turn people home because they do not have a vaccination certificate. However, would it be responsible to meet in an uncontrolled environment where possibilities of spreading the virus are high?”
The ZHOCD further stated that ,practically , less than 10% of the population has been vaccinated and that there is a cross section of the population which can not be vaccinated due to various health and social issues.
“It will be difficult for the church to deny people to receive the means of grace simply because they have not been vaccinated when access to this vaccination is restricted,”the statement reads.
The move was also questioned by outspoken Norton lawmaker Temba Mliswa who said the approach opens an opportunity for discrimination and corruption.
“The challenge with this approach is it opens the opportunity for discrimination. We have a situation we need to address where people are receiving the first COVID-19 vaccination, but due to unavailability, can’t access the second,” Mliswa.
However, despite the public outcry, the police said they will descend on those who violate the government’s position.
National Police Spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the police will be working with health officials to assess the situation in churches and help with implementing the decree.
He warned those who might want to take advantage of this decree and use fake vaccination cards.