KZN Leaders call for calm and a look inwards

  • As we come to the end of two weeks of political and civic unrest which has wrecked inordinate amounts of damage on our people, our economy, our livelihoods and our sense-of-self as a people where do we find ourselves. How do we make sense of the destruction we see around us?
  • Where do we locate ourselves and where do we locate blame? In this moment it is so easy to point figures – and it is true, our government and particularly the ruling party does have a lot to answer for in this moment. Letting in-party factionalism play out in the streets of KZN is unacceptable.
  • Mr President, Minister of police and Mr Zuma, you have a lot to answer for and we’re looking to you for accountability. What you allowed to happen in our streets has cost us all dearly. None if us in the province has got through the last two weeks unscathed. All of us are sitting with and still trying to work through the pain that you and your party allowed to happen.
  • However, none of that withstanding, what is our role moving forward – as ordinary people in the province?
  • On all sides we’re seeing people moving into their ‘camps’. Race, ethnic, class and political lines that were hidden bellow the surface of our every day life are now laid bare, with the cracks threatening to deepen into unbreachable caverns. In this moment the pull towards violence is great – be this the violence of our actions or the violence of our words. Especially when we are still all dealing with fear, frustration, anger, betrayal and so on.
  • Are we able to instead choose a different path? To choose a path of peace and a path of collective ownership for where we find ourselves today?
  • We are reminded of Matthew 7:5 where Jesus, in one of his most profound teachings on Christian morality tells us “First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
  • And so we are reminded that in this moment, while we have a call to hold people accountable, we also have a call to own what has happened. To not say this was “them” and “their” story but to really own it – this is our story… my story. And as we pause to look inwards we need to ask ourselves what role have I… we… “my people” played in allowing this to happen on our watch
  • In many of our Church liturgies we pray a version of this prayer: “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.”
  • In our personal and collective lives let us create space for this spirit of reflection, ownership and repentance. For what we have done, and importantly for what we have left undone.
  • Moving towards justice and reconciliation from this place allows us to enter the conversation with arms down and a common commitment to rebuilding.
  • To be clear, we are not calling for a rebuilding or a unity which sweeps things under the carpet. That kind of unity is built on a commitment to not see and address injustice and it is what we have all been guilty of for too many years. Instead we are calling for a common commitment to building something new. Something where we can see, name, and address the cracks and divisions in our society and the injustices which flow along those cracks.
  • To the Clergy and other community leaders, all of us are people with individual identities, opinions, politics and theologies. In this moment where the cracks and divisions threaten to break us, we urge you to be promoters of peace and to create spaces where different people can come together to listen and talk. Spaces where the hard conversations can be had.
  • Let us own what has happened in our province these last two weeks, and steadfastly commit to building a new way of being a people together.

Media Statement on violence -KZNCLG

Media Statement on Violence F

PIETERMARITZBURG – Yesterday at 07h00, the KwaZulu Natal Church Leaders Group (KZN-CLG) convened by the KwaZulu Natal Christian Council (KZNCC) held an urgent virtual meeting via Zoom to evaluate the current situation of violence and unrest in various parts of the province and the nation at large.

Led by Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Chairperson of the KZN-CLG, the leaders note with serious concern the reckless behavior of numerous people who have resorted to violence, looting and damage of property. Such actions have a direct impact on businesses, livelihoods and access to food.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the acts of burning of businesses as well as burning of informal settlements.

We have noted a typical racial tension where Black Africans have been attacked. We therefore condemn in the strongest possible terms, the attacks against any race.

We condemn in strongest terms threats to attack foreign national or xenophobic attacks

We condemn in the strongest possible the threats to launch inter-racial violence

We call for stability, peace and unity in our province and nation at large.

 

“We condemn, in the strongest possible terms the violence that has wreaked havoc across our province: destroying property, infrastructure and businesses, intimidating innocent people and causing widespread fear and anxiety. We state that this is totally unacceptable and cannot, under any circumstances be tolerated”, said Cardinal Napier.

Subsequently, the following resolutions were taken:

  1. That the KZNCLG appreciates that people have different viewpoints and opinions on the socio-political issues of the day, and therefore urgently calls for dialogue and practical interventions from all parties and stakeholders rather than violence.
  2. That Churches are concerned and anxious about the level of the historical inequality we continue to experience today.

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier and Bishop Myaka went on to emphasise the call to Government to urgently reduce the glaring and immoral chasm between the rich and the people on the margins.

“We urge our political, social and community leaders to call and stand for peace and calmness, so that the issues of the day can be addressed with the participation of leaders from all sectors of society”, said Cardinal Napier.

The group highlighted the key role that the Church has in offering pastoral care, peace monitoring and peace building at this time and urged faith leaders to be visible in offering support wherever it is needed.

They also called on government to find solutions which will meet the needs of the poor and needy, and which will protect communities and businesses from thuggery.

“Government, the Faith and Business sectors and Civil Society together have an urgent role to play in responding to those who are destitute and hungry; a situation which has only been amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic over the past 18 months. Poverty and dire hunger cannot be ignored and must be addressed immediately. Leaving these lived realities unaddressed is not only immoral but will also prepare fertile ground for unrest” declared Bishop Myaka.

Speaking to those calling for and resorting to violence the group of leaders urged them to reconsider their strategy with their resolutions stating, “Let us be clear; it is the poorest and most marginalized in our society – those who have already been hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and its related lockdown restrictions – who will again bear the brunt and feel the real pain of this violent unrest.”

The KwaZulu Natal Church Leaders Group are actively engaging around this issue to ensure peace and calm to be restored. They will be meeting with the KZN Premier this week to engage political leadership so that urgent interventions are taken. They are also engaging with national political and ecumenical leadership to find workable, long-lasting solutions to this crisis. This includes negotiating with government to give Clergy permission to travel for pastoral care during lockdown hours.

Finally, the KZN-CLG made the following urgent calls:

  1. To all people of faith there is a call to prayer: prayer for peace and stability, for wisdom and courage, for vision and leadership
  2. To business and the public: we are now hit with a food crisis. Please make any donation you can to the KZNCC for the distribution of food to those left most vulnerable by these riots (bank details below).
  3. To Church Leaders: please get in contact if you are willing to become peace monitors and be deployed at this critical moment.

“We will continue to journey and support our government through continuous prayers and escalate whatever information that we see beneficial to our people because the churches are speechless at this level of revolting violence. We grieve with all those who grieve and extend our heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost loved ones at this time. Furthermore, we shall do everything possible to protect children, the elderly, the sick and the vulnerable by actions which build faith, hope and love in the world around us” said Bishop Nkosinathi Myaka, KZNCC Chairperson.

Emotions of my soul –

It is this: CRY – the beloved country.

Cry – for broken lives and unmet dreams;

Cry – for silent voices and uncontrolled rage;

Cry – for hearts of greed and empty hands;

Cry – for fists of violence and fear-filled souls;

Cry – for hope filled courage and courage that has lost hope;

And through the fog and my paralysed being –

Through the words of Paton’s title –

There is BUT just one verse that makes its way through:

“JESUS WEPT”.

 

(Von Elke Kaiser Carrihill)

 

Ends

For Media enquiries contact:

KZNCC Communications

Xola Nkabinde

+27 (0) 72 834 4219 (m)

 

Bank Details for Food Relief:

Name: KZNCC

Bank: FNB

Account no: 62601869243

Branch: 221-325

Reference: Food

 

KZNCC COVID-19 Churches Response on the re-opening of Schools

The Steering Committee of the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (KZNCC) COVID-19 CHURCHES RESPONSE has carefully considered the proposal to re-open schools in KZN this month. We are aware that the opening of schools will be done in carefully worked out phases, which will give appropriate attention to the protection and safety of all teaching, office and support staff, and especially the children.

With the parents, we express our serious concern over the measures put in place to evaluate and monitor the control of risk to all engaged in the school environment. We are particularly concerned about the delay in supplying Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) such as masks and hand sanitizers to schools. We are also concerned that most of the schools in rural areas do not even have running water to use for washing hands as required by the COVID-19 safety protocols.

It is not good news that some schools did not receive PPE material because they do not have safe storage. It will be tragic and unacceptable to lose lives in our education sector because of this factor. As Churches, where necessary, we are open to negotiate the use of local Church premises for safe storage of PPE and other materials.

We support the notion that those schools that are self-sufficient or have received all PPE and will be able to implement social distancing and thereby meet all safety COVID-19 regulations, be allowed to re-open.

We are conscious that since some children and teachers have to use kombis to get to school, this could be an avenue for COVID-19 transmission. So, we plead with kombi operators to comply with all the COVID-19 safety protocols. At the same time we ask commuters to report to the police kombi or public transport operators who do not comply with the COVID-19 guidelines.

We are informed that there are schools which do not have enough teachers because of COVID-19, or because the teachers have diabetes or other health conditions which put them at risk, and so are scared to report to schools where there are no PPEs. We urge the Department to deploy interim teachers so that the affected children receive the necessary urgent attention.

In cases where there is an infection in a family, we urge the family not to send the children to school for the recommended quarantine period.

Since we know that in some cases those who have tested positive have been blamed for catching the virus or even victimised for having it, we appeal to all who can to help us educate each other to adhere religiously to each and every rule and regulation that has been put in place to control the spread of COVID-19.

Lastly, we place the welfare of parents, teachers and children in the safe hands of Jesus whose wish was that the Little Children be allowed to come to him, but not before their time, or because of our negligence.

We will continue to offer pastoral care and counselling upon request, and we pray for Christ’s grace to be sufficient for the Department of Education and for all schools, and may God continue to support and bless the work of educators in support of the education system and the learners. May you be assured of our thoughts and prayers for you.

Yours in Christ

+Wilfrid Cardinal Napier OFM                                              Bishop Nkosinathi Myaka

KZN Church Leaders’ Group Chairperson                          KZNCC Chairperson                                  

                                         

Response to KZNCC Pastoral letter by Rebecca Ngoetjana

Response to KZNCC Pastoral letter

 25th January 2021

 Critique

Until we acknowledge the power that brought everything that we see into existence and engage theological issues in the light of the doer of the works of God – the Holy Spirit, our Theology remains dry and ineffective and will never cause changes in the world. To think that catastrophes and calamities in this world are always by God, is to deny that God by His grace in Jesus Christ has consummated the salvation of humankind, and that His grace prevails over and against circumstances threatening the human race in the world.  Christians should not overlook the fact that the adversary, the devil, is roaring like a lion seeking whom to devour. Whether we want to believe or not , the spirit of antichrist is here, the scriptures say so, deceiving and destroying human life in every way possible even by way of COVID-19, and this spirit of antichrist works in the children of disobedience namely, those who in unbelief objects to and oppose the gospel of Jesus Christ. What is called the “new normal’ is a branded operation of the perpetrators of wickedness propagating evil intentions amongst the nations of the world. It requires the intervention of the Holy Spirit to read the signs of times according to prophetic texts in the scriptures and appropriate the message therein to this pandemic period.

Rebecca Ngoetjana

We are in Phase 2 of the pandemic. The report by the South African Team of Scientists gave the awareness of the existence of a Variant which is more dangerous and faster than the former corona virus. It is capable of hiding to escape the diagnosis. This renders the possibility of a vaccine that was made on the basis of the nature of the first virus inaccurate, unsafe and ineffective in as far as its measure to prevent infection is concerned because of the virus/variant’s potential of re-infecting after 90 days of receiving treatment. More so, there is a decline in the infection rate now. The team pointed out their intention to continue research concerning the variant. From America, President Joe Biden has indicated that ‘the worst is still to come’. This statement is not positive to give hope that the vaccine is the answer in an attempt to restore the world’s good standard of health. The question is: ‘Is not rolling the vaccine a gamble with the life’s of people of the earth? Even if we choose to overlook the president’s statement, it is a warning. He has said it because he knows what is going on behind the scene. Watch.

 

In the context of Lockdown wherein churches are closed, a pastoral letter is expected to exhort the faith community to:

  1. Pray without ceasing in their house as a family.
  2. Share the word of God as a family and
  3. Have the Holy Communion as a family.
  4. Do their own research….in scriptures and in science.

 

Vaccines have a history of faults and dangers to the human body. They are unreliable. They can harm the body and/prevent the disease. No guarantee whatsoever. Science is the calculation of the human mind, an intellectual exercise and with whatever tools of expertise, based on experimentation and tests. But it still remains fallible because it is the effort of human beings.

 

Taking into consideration the second paragraph above, it is in the light of faith in Christ, premature at this stage to encourage people to comply with the call for vaccination. For example, who has so far come with the explanation for the decline of infection to show the urgency of vaccines and how indispensable they are now? If we are made to think that God causes calamities and so is the pandemic, is there anything we can do to outdo what he does except like he said: “if people who are called by my name come to me and humble themselves, I will heal their land”?

 

Speaking of eschatology, the book of revelation was written by John in detention in he Island of  Patmos long ago in the tens AD and we are now in the thousands AD. With all possibility, this period is the future of the message of the book of revelation. If some parts of the message from Revelation is used in paragraph 02 of the Pastoral letter to give hope during this period of the pandemic, how does it become a theological misunderstanding to appropriate Rev 13 to this era since Biblically the spirit of antichrist is here? The antichrist may not be here in person, but manifestations of his spirit are evident to see. It is a lying spirit that instills fear in the hearts of many people through the evil works of perpetrators of wickedness such as Covid 19. You think God is behind Covid 19, with the closure of churches?  No, that’s a lie. A wicked man/men is/are behind this pandemic. To think of other people’s findings that reveal truths that expose the dynamics that go with Covid 19 as conspiracies, is also to believe in a lie from the spirit of antichrist. Let our theology contextually draw out meaning from texts and not put meaning into texts to suit what we want to convey to our readers. Every book in the Bible has a message central to it and should not be distorted. A sound doctrine will grace people to make right choices for themselves without a dictator who instills fear in their hearts to force them to accomplish his goal. Human beings have the divine/ God given right to choose, including the right to choose vaccine or No vaccine.

 

My edition of part of the Pastoral letter.

I have chosen to edit paragraphs 02, 03 and 04 only.

Para 02

The last sentence: ‘We thank God…’ renders a reading that can create a sense/feeling of guilt with a question: ‘what have we done to deserve this?’ for God’s grace not to protect us like others. I think it is sufficient to give them condolences and so delete that last statement.

Para 03

I have rephrased the whole paragraph:

 

Plagues were unleashed as a sign of God’s power when he liberated the children of Israel from the Egyptian bondage. In the book of Matthew 24 there are prophetic signs concerning the end time/last days which can be seen in our days. The book of Daniel and Revelation contain sayings that point to the end time and these sayings help us locate our time within the eschatological world view. The Bible also points out clearly that the spirit of antichrist is here, working in the children of disobedience. Notable enough is the massive persecution of the church in the East, running alongside the pandemic. We may not have entered the great tribulation yet, but as Christians we should have the awareness that this time, being the church era, we are advancing the end time.

 

Para 04

Have rephrased the whole paragraph:

 

The book of Revelation was written more than a thousand years ago. We have definitely begun to live in the future of what its message points to. To question the relevance of the message in revelation 13 is to deny the importance of value God has attached to mankind that he revealed to us the things to come through John. The number 666, the beast from the sea, the beast from the earth, the false prophet are important characters in Revelation 13 and should be seriously taken into consideration because of the role they play regarding the end time. Our perception of Covid 19 pandemic should therefore be in the light of the prophetic scriptures – the eschatological view.

 

Rebecca Ngoetjana

Theology of COVID-19 Vaccine: A Pastoral Letter

From: KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (KZNCC), the KZN Church Leaders Group (KZNCLG) and the Ecumenical Movement in the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN)

To: The Faith Communities and the People of KZN

This pastoral letter is written to you to bring hope in the midst of concerns about the surge of the Corona Virus Disease of 2019 (COVID-19). Other viruses have come and gone. This one has come and will definitely go. The concerns of both the scientific and other communities must be taken seriously. The problem of the virus and the manufacturing of the vaccine must be attended to meticulously, accurately and with total care and compassion. Our condolences goes to those who have lost their loved ones. We thank God for the mercy and protection for all of us who have found grace in Him (sic).

Why does God Allow Coronavirus and other Catastrophes?

The doctrine of the ‘fall of man’ (sic) teaches humanity that we are now living in a broken world. Since the ‘fall’, thistles and thorns have broken into the world. Meaning that death has entered creation and humanity was bound to experience physical death. Death, diseases and calamities have become one of the ways humanity would leave this world. Coronavirus is one of those means.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is not the first to surge in the world. We had the Antonine virus (165 AD); the Justinian Plaque (541 AD); the Small pox (735 AD); Black Death (1347) to quote a few and most recently, HIV and AIDS and COVID-19 (2019 AD). This gives us reason to believe the Lord saying: “Do not be afraid – I the Lord have overcome the world”. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Though we may not know yet, the purpose of unleashing COVID-19 we learn from the Scriptures that plagues were unleashed to liberate the children of Israel from the Egyptian bondage; the incidents in the book of Revelation were meant to bring the nations and people of that future time to come to Christ and reject the Anti-Christ. At the moment the time of the church, our present time is the era of grace in the presence of the Holy Spirit. We are not in the times of the great tribulation as yet.

Meaning to refer to Rev. 13: 1 – 18 and apply it to our time is an eschatological misunderstanding .The number 666, the name of the beast from the Sea – the Anti-Christ, referred to by the beast from the Earth – the false prophet – the number of the human being – the AntiChrist has nothing to do with the sort after vaccine for COVID-19. God’s leashing of calamities is meant to teach people obedience, is to oppose pride, to abolish idolatry, to teach gratitude, to defend holiness, to show the power of God and salvation of humanity. The calamities are to teach us to pray to the living God, to love God and one another to bring forth peace with justice.

Concerns Raised by Moral Theology and Concerned Communities

Especially the proponents of pro-life groups – opposed to abortion – would not accept any vaccine manufactured from aborted foetuses as has been the case in the 1970’s. Another concern was raised on the possibilities of side effects; concern is raised on the evil forces who want to exercise social control of humanity by subjecting humans to technological control and by so doing exercise power over them by a computerised system. As it is murmured in some scientific communities as well, a concern is raised on the rush of the production of the COVID-19 vaccine which has not followed the previous normal and procedural protocols of manufacturing a vaccine. There is hesitancy on the quality and purity on the present vaccines which are being produced.

There is a concern about the possible nationalisation of the vaccines. Seemingly rich nations will hoard the vaccines for themselves at the detriment of the poor nations. Another concern is raised on the capitalisation or commercialisation of the vaccines. That is the vaccines will be so expensive that the poor nations may not afford. And that the vaccines are meant to make exponential profits from the poorer nations of the world. And that the acceleration of the production of the vaccines compromise the harmlessness of the product. Religiously speaking, there is a concern that the vaccine may produce future generations which are religiously immune. Meaning that the nations will be so contaminated and have no consciousness of religious thought since their DNA’s will be tempered with.

One more concern is that of misinformation and disinformation. Both the misrepresentation of facts from quasi scientific commentators and theological misapplication of scriptures is exacerbating the problem. Baseless conspiracy theories are not helpful.

Other possible steps to be considered concerning the vaccine/s:

“We should thankfully acknowledge the input of the medical fraternity, the carers, those standing in the front line, the president, the government and other institutions.

We would need a chapter by the medical fraternity or department of health of explaining exactly not only what the virus causes but also what the vaccine does and the different types of vaccines available at present:

We should broadcast that central message of OT and NT Scripture “Do not be afraid!” of the situation as God is Lord of life, health, sickness and death.

This message should also penetrate the many fears that have been generated in view of possible vaccinations, that they are saving devices of God and not destructive forces of His adversary.

We should distinguish between solid, health-providing information and fake news, especially within our different churches and faith-based communities, and in our prophetic ministry warn against minimising or disregarding the threat

We want to stress that we as a faith-based community wish to collaborate and work together with the government, health dept., medical fraternity and all relevant institutions, NGO’s etc”.

Conclusion: Is God central in this surge of coronavirus? Yes. God is incharge: He (sic) says: “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:5-7 – 10; 31: 2; 47: 11; Amos 3: 6)).

All concerns are legitimate. Concerns from the scientific, communal and religious communities are genuine and must be engaged with respectfully and openly. All baseless misinformation and disinformation must be rejected. The deliberate falsehood theories must be identified as such. Fake.

We can make a contribution towards the annihilation of COVID-19 by mutual cooperation and reciprocal sharing of what works better for the progress we need to exterminate COVID-among us.

Collated: Dr. Mogashudi Lucas Ngoetjana. Deputy CEO: KZNCC

Contributors

  1. Rev. George Scriba
  2. Rev. Sonto Thusi
  3. Rev Hugh Wetmore

Engines

https://www.crosswalk.com/church/pastors-or-leadership/ask-roger-god-and-coronavirus

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_of_the_COVID-19_pandemic_on_religion.

SACC Position Statement on the Church and the COVID-19 Vaccine

SACC Ecumenical Theological Task Team – February 8, 2021

 Preamble

The novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has plunged the global community into an extraordinary crisis; turning the world upside down. Life for humanity has grounded to a sudden halt as the Coronavirus takes total control. Humanity has been brought to its knees by the microscopic virus. The personal, social and economic impact of COVID-19 is incalculable, unlike anything experienced by the world in nearly a century. Christians and other people of faith have prayed and continue to pray ceaselessly for God’s intervention. The scientific community has worked around the clock and God is answering our prayers. Thankfully, a vaccine has been developed within a year of the outbreak of the pandemic, which is no mean feat in the history of vaccines. As South Africans we have wondered if no shortcuts were taken to occasion this. Different trusted South African scientists have severally assured us: “The research was done faster with large numbers of people ensuring safety and efficacy measurements were not compromised”; and “The trials were totally ethically and scientifically sound and the licensing completely thorough. The speed of development is really a reflection of the level of scientific advancement we are now at rather than it was in any way recklessly rushed through.” The rollout of the vaccines is already underway and we have a long road yet ahead of us.

Ecumenical Theological Task Team

However, the development of the vaccine has brought a lot of uncertainty, anxiety, confusion and fear among South Africans. Concerns are circulating all over social media, instilling fear and panic in the minds of many. While many are warmly embracing the vaccine, still many are resisting this advance in medical science, and at times.

It is against this background of the apparent resistance to the vaccine and concerns raised by Christians and South Africans in general, that the leaders of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), set up the Ecumenical Theological Task Team comprising theologians from a broad spectrum of the Christian churches affiliated to SACC: Anglican, African Independent churches, Catholic, Charismatic, Evangelical,  Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, and Reformed traditions. They met on Wednesday 3 February 2021, to discuss and come up with a united churches’ response to the COVID-19 vaccine. Chaired by Prof. Simangaliso Kumalo of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Task Team included:

Dr. Vicentia Kgabe, Anglican; Dr Louise Kretcshmar, Baptist: Fr. Sbu Statu, Catholic:
Bishop Ezekiel Mathole, Grace Bible Church; Bishop Thami Ngcana and Bishop Nat Phomana, Council of African Independent Churches: Dr Elijah Mhlanga, Assemblies of God; Rev. Pumla Nzimande, Methodist; Dr Daniel Andrew, Apostolic Faith Mission; Dr Moses Hobe, Full Gospel Church; Rev. Lungile Mpetsheni, Uniting Presbyterian Church; Dr Sandile Ngiba, Evangelical Lutheran; Prof. R. Tshaka, Uniting Reformed Church.

Concerns

COVID-19 vaccine and “mark of the beast”

Some sections of the Christian community have strongly argued that the vaccine is not from God but is part of the “new world order” governed by the devil and has 666, the “mark of the beast” (Rev. 13:16). Many fear that by taking the vaccine, they will be forced to take “the mark of the beast.”

This association of the vaccine with the beast is based on a wrong and literal interpretation of the book of Revelation and ignores its historical context. Biblical scholars agree that Revelation was written to the seven churches in the first century to address the issue of the Roman imperial cult.

It was thus, situational, personal, and contextual. It was most probably written during the reigns of Emperor Nero and Domitian, the most notorious of the Roman emperors, who were deified and demanded to be worshipped even while they were still alive. Scholars associate “the mark of the beast” particularly with Nero. This is because when transliterated into Greek, the sum of the letters of his name results in the number 666. Thus, the use of the number 666 was coded (hidden) reference to Nero used by a persecuted Church. Emperor Nero’s demand that he be worshipped is also tied to the worship of the beast’s image (Rev. 13:15; 20:4).

The emperor’s image and his claim to be worshipped were also on coins, the medium of exchange, without which one could not participate in the local economy. To buy or sell anything meant participating in pagan worship. By participating in the local economy, one automatically could be said to take “the mark of the beast” at the expense of faith in Christ Jesus. To take “the mark of the beast” therefore meant loyalty and worship, which requires full awareness of what one was doing.

The taking of the vaccine does not demand any Christian to forsake Jesus, as was the case during Nero’s reign. It does not demand complete devotion to anything. Far from causing fear and anxiety among Christians, Revelation actually has a positive message that we should focus on Jesus who is the sole object of worship and embrace the vaccine as a gift for his people during a period of intense suffering, as was the case during the persecution of the early Church by Emperor Nero.

5G and its implications on COVID-19”

There have been widespread social media expressions of concern on the suspected link between the 5G technology and the spread of the Coronavirus which led to unfortunate incidents in which community members in Umlazi, KwaMashu, and Ntuzuma in KwaZulu-Natal set fire to 5G towers in January 2021, claiming that they were responsible for the spread of COVID-19 through radio waves.

Research from reputable organisations such as the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has shown that there is no evidence whatsoever that 5G technology spreads COVID-19. There are many countries in Africa without 5G technology, yet the virus is wreaking havoc there too. Viruses cannot travel on radio waves or mobile networks. If anything, let us warmly embrace 5G as it will deliver faster connections and connectivity in our internet age, including advancing in research on future viruses.

Coronavirus was made in a lab”

It has been claimed that the Coronavirus is not an accidental pandemic like other historical pandemics but was engineered in a laboratory by companies so that they could profiteer through vaccines.

This has further been given credence by the speed with which the vaccine was developed and approved for use. There is indeed some concern that big pharmaceutical companies in cahoots with some governments will use the pandemic for massive profits and self-enrichment. There has, however, been no credible evidence that the virus was engineered in a lab. Pandemics caused by viruses have emerged throughout human history, and in the last two decades we have seen the SARS and MERS Coronavirus outbreaks. So, we should not be surprised by the arrival of the COVID-19 virus. On the massive profits, we call on companies and governments to ensure that the vaccine is equitably accessed and for no profit or at low profit. We call on these to share the know-how so that most countries can help to scale up the production of these vaccines and together attain population immunity.

Vaccine and population control”

Another common misconception is that the COVID-19 vaccine is a ploy by the rich industrialized nations or by a cartel of the richest people in the world under the leadership of Bill Gates, or machinations of the empire to reduce the global population through the elimination of the black race. This theory is baseless. In fact, vaccines are not new. Vaccines have been a reality for all of us from birth.

When our children were born, we gladly accepted the vaccines prescribed by hospitals and health clinics without any questions. In fact, most of us still have the marks of the vaccine on our arms. Most of us could have died of diseases such as measles and polio in infancy had it not been for the vaccines we received. In our day, people in malaria prone countries are vaccinated against the Plasmodium parasite that causes malaria. The same with yellow fever; to travel to Kenya or Tanzania one needs a yellow fever vaccination certificate.

COVID-19 is a pandemic like any other and the COVID-19 vaccine is a vaccine like any other. Furthermore, COVID-19 does not discriminate. As the numbers tell, currently, there are over two million people who have lost their lives worldwide and a quarter of these is from the global south and 93 219 from Africa; of which, regrettably, some 45 000 are South African. Every part of the world has their share of the pain, let us continue to show global solidarity through mutual support and care for one another as Christ would want us to.

Vaccine and DNA

Another popular circulating mistruth is that the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines will alter one’s DNA. It is argued that because the vaccine is genetic material injected into the body, it could somehow mix in with our own genetic material and change it. However, mRNA is not the same as DNA, and it cannot combine with our DNA to change our genetic code. It is also relatively fragile and will only be inside a cell for about 72 hours, before being degraded. mRNA is naturally made by the body; it encodes instructions for our bodies’ cells to make protein. Any mRNA vaccine has the same purpose, to teach and train our bodies to make an immune response toward a particular pathogen. If the pathogen gets into the body, the immune system can attack it.

Vaccines are made from aborted foetus”

Ethical concerns have also been raised, and understandably so, on the production of the COVID-19 vaccine. Many from the pro-life campaign are concerned that the vaccines may have been made from cell lines of aborted foetuses. There is a history of the use of foetal cell lines in the research and development of vaccines for diseases such as hepatitis A, rubella, chicken pox, ebola, shingles, rabies, and the early polio vaccines. As part of that history, some vaccines are said to be present-day derivations of the original scientific research process that developed protein sourced from a foetus. Although there is no evidence that current vaccines are directly made out of foetal tissue, the connection to cell lines related to foetal tissue in the originating of the technology can pose an ethical question. But in the unavailability of alternative measures to save lives in the current public health crisis, the use of the vaccine is morally justifiable to protect people from the killer disease.

Are vaccines safe?

Many people have also raised concerns about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. The safety of the people receiving the vaccine has been a top priority of the vaccine manufacturers. ALL vaccines go through clinical trials to test their safety and effectiveness. There is also rigorous monitoring to see if there are any side effects and will be withdrawn if the side effects are serious. Even if these vaccines were produced very quickly, no steps were skipped on the way. They have already been given to millions of people of all races around the world.

However, some side effects such as fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, fatigue and headaches have been reported. Most side effects happen within the first three days after vaccination and last only one to two days. Besides, all vaccines claim a certain percentage average efficacy. It cannot be lower than 50% effective. Available vaccines have been ranging from about 65% to 95% effective. That means there would be cases that fall outside of the declared efficacy threshold for that vaccine. So far, even with the stated limits of efficacy, the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the side-effects, and are well worth the effort to save lives.

Way Forward

We recognise and appreciate the openness with which South Africans and our congregants have expressed their concerns and even objections to the COVID-19 vaccine. It is healthy for the Church to have a dialogue on such matters. People’s voices must not be silenced but must be heard.

Humanity as co-creators with God

We have been praying for God’s intervention to end the pandemic and for life to return to normal. God moved and inspired our scientists to develop effective vaccines. That way, our scientists are co-creators with God. Christians should view the vaccines as part of the answer to our prayers. The swift effort that has gone into developing effective vaccines is something of a miracle. Christians should see the Spirit of God at work not just in the Church setting but in every sphere of life. Any appropriate medical discovery that can heal the land should be discerned as a present from God. The vaccine is not the saviour but God is. There is therefore, no legitimate Christian reason for refusing to take the vaccine. Let us rather continue praying for God to give our experts, whom God has called, to bring healing and end suffering, to continue to give the experts all that is needed to save lives. As Apostle Paul writes (1 Corinthians 3:9), “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building”; that the words of Prophet Jeremiah might come true for our time: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope”. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Sanctity of human life

We have lost too many lives due to the pandemic. Also, we have lost much that makes for livelihoods. Every life is important; and livelihoods help sustain life with dignity. Let us preach and act holistically for the sanctity of human life. COVID undermines not only human life through the lonely death that it visits on individuals and their families; it also occasions havoc on the dignity of the human person as households are plunged into the extremities of poverty and want.

The saving of life requires also the commitment to help create the environment for living in the compassion of God that is manifest in Jesus. He felt compassion for the people, “Because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). The same Christ instructs us, Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36). This compassion of Christ impels us to champion life-giving vaccines against COVID-19.

Vaccination: a show of love for our neighbour

Getting vaccinated against the Coronavirus ought to be understood as an act of charity towards other members of our community. Jesus said: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35). Thus, being vaccinated should be considered an act of love of our neighbour; for it ensures that we shall not be the cause of the infection and suffering of your loved ones. Thus, it is part of our moral responsibility for the common good. Protecting the health of the community takes precedence over individual ideologies. The guiding principle should be the Jesus cause “that they may have life”; saying, “I will take the vaccine not only for what I hope will be the good of my own health, but for others as well.”

The vaccine: a justice issue

As the churches, we will ensure that we advocate for every South African who wants a vaccine to get it, especially poor people, and those who live on the margins of society. We will raise our prophetic voice in ensuring that the process of the distribution of the vaccine is not fraught with corruption as was the case with the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and that all who are found to have committed acts of corruption are dealt with accordingly.

In this context we call for a spirit of global solidarity in access to these vaccines and sharing the knowhow and with preferential options for the global south, which remains poor. In these circumstances we wish to make the moral point that we believe that for the COVID-19 vaccine there should be cause to bypass some of the standard commercial considerations in pricing, and the standard 20-year patent protection period.

A three to five-year protection should be adequate under these special circumstances, especially because, given the worldwide concentrated demand of the vaccine occasioned by the pandemic. This is a justice issue. For this reason we join in the lament that the rich nations of the world are hoarding for themselves inordinate volumes of vaccine supplies, in some cases in multiples of their populations. This is an injustice that the world should not tolerate.

Countering misinformation

An urgent challenge is to counter misinformation. Information is key. Knowledge and wisdom are key biblical ideals, as Proverbs 15:14 instructs: “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.”

Without accurate and authentic information, people are misled by many discredited and fake tales from outlandish sources.

We need to get as much information as possible from those who are knowledgeable, and we also need to encourage our congregants to seek as much information on vaccines and the pandemic as they can from experts.  That requires us to learn to trust that South African scientists are as good as any in the world; and not be misguided by every quasi-scientific post on the internet. We must popularise also the use of the SACC’s dedicated COVID-19 website – https://www.churchinaction.org.za that gives advice and guidance to church and society in various South African languages, based on researched and verified information on matters COVID-19, including the latest on the vaccine.  Let us be the voice of reason that gives hope in a hopeless situation.

Walking the talk

Church leaders have an important role to play in communication about the vaccine and getting people to be vaccinated. Having Church leaders publicly support the vaccine is very important. When Church leaders get vaccinated in public, they make a difference in the fight against COVID-19. That way they can help restore trust in vaccines among their congregants and the broader society. Not so long ago, some church leaders were tested publicly for HIV-AIDS, to dispel the stigma. We can do this again.

Leaders of SACC member churches will offer to take the vaccine in public to demonstrate confidence in the COVID-19 vaccination, for vaccines are a vital part of the solution to the pandemic. There are two known and interconnected ways to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. One is the non-pharmaceutical measures of wearing masks, social distancing, hand hygiene, ventilation and sitting outside to socialise.

The second and more long-lasting measure is the vaccination of enough people to affect a reduction of infection through population immunity. Therefore, Church leaders, should encourage their congregants and their loved ones to take the vaccine and dispel misinformation. With the trust earned, we can tip the balance between trust and distrust, confidence and fear.

Religious freedom

As Christians, we believe in freedom of choice. We should not force the vaccine down the throats of our congregations. Their membership of and standing in the Church should not be affected by the decision that they take on the vaccine.

Cooperation with the Government

The Church should cooperate with the Government in its attempts to vaccinate our people and save lives. We should give the health authorities all the support that they need. We should open our Church buildings to be vaccination centres when called upon to do so.

Conclusion

The development of the COVID-19 vaccine should be viewed as a major milestone in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic. The vaccine represents the best hope to save lives in the midst of the pandemic. It will help protect people who get infected with the virus from becoming sick. As more people are vaccinated, population-wide immunity develops, families and communities will be able to gradually return to a more normal routine, thus saving lives and livelihoods. Science is clear at this point that our very best hope is getting as many people as possible vaccinated.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

About SACC

The South African Council of Churches (SACC) is an ecumenical association of affiliated Christian Churches, and blocks of churches such as The Evangelical Alliance, the International Federation of Christian Churches, and the Council of African Independent Churches, with a mandate to lead common Christian action that works for moral witness in South Africa. SACC does not exist for the propagation and the advancement of its doctrinal position, but is the place where our diverse interpretations of our faith come together in action for social justice. It therefore seeks to achieve a visible, just socio-economic and ecological impact, enabled through engaged churches-in-community for a reconciled South Africa and our sub-continent.

Theology of Coronavirus-by Georg Scriba

KZNCC ecumenical response to covid-19

A.  Challenges:

  1. The Covid-19 pandemic is a world-wide disaster and therefore has to be fought on a world-wide, global scale.
  2. The Covid-19 pandemic has probably only started in South Africa and more disaster frameworks will have to be implemented immediately:
  3. Seeing and listening to the news from other countries we need to be ready for all eventualities and worst-case scenarios:
  4. As someone quipped sarcastically: at least no one is again contemplating to flee or emigrate from our country, the trouble seems to be similar around the whole world

The Medical Challenge:

What we would wish and pray for from a purely human point of view of medical expectations:

  1. That the medical world fraternity discovers a working vaccine against the Covid-19 virus;
  2. That other medication (as against Ebola and SARS) can quickly be adapted as a possible cure and made widely available;
  3. That the antibodies of those who have survived the Covid-19 could be developed into a vaccine or medication to assist those who are ill;
  4. That those who survived Covid-19 could assist with the care of those who are ill;
  5. That the government quickly erects new hospitals: e.g. negotiating with SAA to use some of their (now) empty hangars for make-shift hospitals;
  6. That retired/ retrenched or private doctors and nurses and available helpers be trained to man these hospitals;
  7. That a large number of respirators or ventilators be imported from exporting countries; OR

That if this is not possible, car manufacturing and assembly plants may quickly change to produce such medical machinery;

  1. That a large number of protective clothing and masks be imported; OR

That if this is not possible, textile workers and similar manufacturers produce millions of face masks for protection of medical staff and the general public;

  1. That sanitizers, water and soap can become available for the general public

Summary of other Challenges

The complete lock-down is to implement a break so that the virus can not spread rapidly through society, but make the curve of contamination more gradual and therefore more manageable.

Instead of “social distancing” we should rather speak of “physical distancing”, as the vast communication by technological means is not “social distancing” but rather “social interaction and communication”.

Many citizens are able to survive in the lock-down status in their own homes, old-age homes and institutions.

Others do not have or see this possibility, because they live on the streets, in squatter camps, shacks and squalid housing facilities.

The outbreak of fear, frustration and violence can therefore be expected.

Policing and the firm maintenance of law and order by the defence force might be inevitable.

The same might occur due to the deteriorating economic situation as small and medium businesses have to close down and even big businesses are in dire straits.

Financial assistance by the government and  will hardly be able to be enough to break the cycle of poverty, of need, for a longer period of time.

B. Our general possibilities

  1. Government might have implemented the lock-down in time to hinder the virus from spreading too fast;
  2. As the global interaction of different countries (e.g. through world-wide travel) is one of the causes for the rapid spread of the virus, so global interaction of information, of progress in medical research to combat the virus, in giving good (and not false) advice, of common decision throughout the world can be a chance for overcoming the pandemic. It is a sign of our committed fight against it that even otherwise opposing political parties can work together and pull the yoke of this danger together.

C. Our Christian Response

  1. The biggest challenge is that of fear. Fear can have a protective function (that we either flee from or stand firm and fight a situation). At present it is being used world-wide to promote the strict adherence to the law or laws that are implemented by most of the different governments and leaders of the world. The protective function of the law is to save lives, but also to educate people who cannot see the direct effect of a virus and cannot understand its possibility of spreading throughout a country’s population.
  2. Fear and the law can at present unite the different factions in society to a combined and unified response to the danger within our midst. Coravid-19 is not only a concern of the Chinese or Italian, it is not a matter of only the ANC or the DA or the EFF, it is not only a temptation of the faith for Christians or Muslims or Jews alone. The disaster spans the rainbow nation in our country of races, creeds, of gender, of rich and poor, in that sense it is an “equaliser” (as someone quoted).
  3. However fear and the law can also be destructive in letting us give up, become desperate and despondent, depressed, without hope, wishing for an end and therefore contemplating death. As no one knows how the corona pandemic will play itself out it leads to much uncertainty, depression and destruction of hope, faith and love.
  4. In this time of trials, temptations, of troubles and even utter distress, the call “Do not be afraid – do not fear” is one of hope, of standing up again, of inspiration and vision. It is a frequent call in Scripture by God, Jesus, angels, prophets and apostles, witnesses and messengers. Someone counted its occurrence in the (KJV?) Bible as 365 times, once per day during the year. And Karl Barth is said to have maintained it to be the gospel in its shortest form.
  5. Most Christians and other Religious leaders are generally giving their support to the government for its attempt to break the increasing spread of the virus among their communicants by cancelling church services and other church activities for the coming month or a certain period which will be determined by the spread or containment of the virus.
  6. Churches as other faiths are determined not to defy the regulations and orders given by the government as it needs a combined effort of all to stand firm against this pandemic.
  7. This decision makes it so difficult for believers of all faiths, because they all stress that God has created the world and everything in it and so is in charge of the world (and therefore also of the virus). Some would however prefer to see the expansion of this deadly virus as the work of the devil/ Satan which has to be opposed with signs of steadfast faith by those who may be called “onward Christian soldiers”.
  8. Most religious communities emphasize signs of greeting, of heartfelt acceptance, of welcoming the stranger, of a spiritual and pastoral community which extends empathy to all. Its spiritual message of unconditional acceptance is not only spoken, taught and preached but also shown through signs of love, by shaking hands and hugs, blessing those who are being married, the confirmed, the laying on of hands on the sick. It belongs to our Christian culture to participate in funerals and other rites of life including not only the closest family, but the community at large, also with physical and not only spiritual signs.
  9. The president’s call for restriction is especially difficult in that one of the greatest festivals of Christians (and Jews) falls into this period of absolute restraint, Easter. Here we celebrate the victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, overcoming the destructive powers on earth. And in contrast, our participation in this restraint, of cancelled church services, can be viewed as that of fearful Christians, hiding behind closed walls, afraid to sing their songs of praise and jubilation, but rather remaining in the sombre lamentation experience of Good Friday.
  10. It is Christian to care about our neighbours and therefore we must, as Christians, lead by example, take up our cross and avoid contact with others. So we might have to sacrifice some of our greatest gifts, eg of letting our light shine in the darkness of the world, by finding new ways of doing that, not only by trying to save the lives of other Christians but for the whole of humanity. Christian churches and congregations will discover ways and means of celebrating their faith, hope and love without compromising the safety of others.
  11. It is a time to contemplate our role on South African life, of praying and supporting all those who have to carry the burden of public responsibility, be that in governing our country, in keeping up law and order, in maintaining safety for travellers on roads, air and sea, for doctors, medical staff and carers, who have to bear the extra load of caring and put themselves at risk of infection in such a fear-driven environment with empathy and health consideration.
  12. In the forefront of Christian prayer and support should be the families, single parents and communities that are called to look after children and learners at home, those who are now home-employed and also those who have to remain in the public domain to safeguard the general running of life in our country in this time of trials and temptations.
  13. Although we can worship together even if we are not in the immediate contact with each other, many forms of communication exist and make combined worship possible even if new ways of doing this have to be discovered. Let us not panic but thank God for what we have. Thankful people who do not stress, are generally healthier than those who worry and fear excessively.
  14. In consultation among themselves and other churches, Christians and congregations may discover new ways of praising God, of celebrating together and preparing liturgies and written sermons for services held in the houses like the early Christians. This might be a time to discover anew the priesthood of all believers. People can then share some thoughts on the sermon at home, something they usually cannot do on Sunday.
  15. It might be a good time to practise Lent – letting go of certain so well-known and traditional rites (e.g. for Easter) and meditate on Christ’s way of suffering for us and having quality time with close people. The experience of Easter in the darkness of death and fear, of the hope and faith in a new life might be better remembered than what we always experienced at Easter in the past.
  16. On the internet, on facebook, whatsapp and other media encouraging words, Bible verses, paradigms, psalms, hymns, music and even encouraging humour and jokes have been spread in a motion of defiance against the fears of our times

 

D Call by the As KwaZulu Natal Christian Council and the ecumenical movement;

–        We encourage our people not to be afraid but rather to take necessary precautions as outlined by the Department of Health.

–        We encourage Church leaders to be specific in guiding their congregations to prevent Corona Virus infections as outlined by the Department of Health.

–        We encourage our congregations in all the church rituals and pastoral activities to be hygienic in ways to stop the spread the Corona Virus.

–        We discourage any form of stigma that may arise out of the Corona Virus pandemic.

The grace of God is abundant to take us through this pandemic.

We encourage all churches to pray for all the affected and the infected.

Isaiah 41:10 “… Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…”

Remember in John 16:33 Jesus says: “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment (self-discipline) – 2 Timothy 1:7. As Christians, we are called to be wise and spread good precautionary practises.

  1. Anthology of Thoughts of Encouragement

The art of small steps (A prayer by  Antoine de Saint Exupery ) (written in the Plural)

We do not ask for miracles and visions, Lord, but strength for every day. Teach us the art of small steps: Make us sensitive for the right use of our time.

Grant us sensitivity to find out what has to come first, what second. Let us realize that dreams do not profit, neither about the past nor the future.

Help us to do the next thing as well as possible and to realize the present hour to be the most important one.

Keep us from the naïve belief that everything ought to go smoothly in life.

Give us the sober judgement that difficulties, failures, defeats, setbacks are an obvious part of life, by which we grow and mature.

Remind us that the heart often goes on strike against reason. Send us someone at the right moment who has the courage to tell us the truth in love.

We know that a lot of problems cannot be solved quickly. Give us patience.

Grant us  the necessary imagination to deliver a parcel of kindness at the right place, with or without words.

Keep us  from the fear we could miss life. Don’t give us what we want but what we need.

Teach us  the art of small steps. Amen.

Supporting our government in Prayer:

We should support all those in leadership, as they ask us to do. On 16 September 2019 at Grace Bible Church President Ramaphosa sang: “If you believe and I believe and we together pray the Holy Spirit must come down And Africa will be saved”. He closed his announcements with the “Thuma Mina” “Send me Lord” and the country’s national anthem: “Nkosi sikelel I’Afrika”.

The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971).

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.

Prayers to help medical staff

Besides pastoral and faith support for the general public, we  may include also prayers for staff and patients, including prayers and support which they might use for the dying.

For that we are proposing to go along the 7 Words of Jesus on the cross:

  1. Forgiveness and freedom from the past: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”:
  2. Salvation and God’s unconditional acceptance against all expectations: “Today you will be with me in Paradise”;
  3. The invaluable support of family and friends: “See, your mother! See your son!”
  4. Being nearest to the Saviour, when we experience God’s silence and distance:”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
  5. Supporting small signs of physical or spiritual assistance:”I am thirsty”;
  6. Letting the Saviour complete what is left behind as broken, shattered (life, work, relationship):”It is accomplished”;
  7. Handing over our lives into God’s hands: “Father into your hands I commit my life”.

We may not have a strong faith in God  but we might have a feeble, insecure faith in a strong God – that is enough!

During the plague in the time of the middle ages

Luther’s Letter on “Whether one may flee from the deadly plague or from dying” of 1527/8 may be helpful also in understanding the situation of fear and anxiety we are living in in our present time.

Maybe very fitting is the advice Luther gave: “Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbour does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.” (I remembered that we used the whole Luther booklet in the time of HIV-AIDS pandemic at the LTI and the then School of Religion and Theology, and how our students used it to “deal” with our situation of fear and anxiety. I summarised the booklet and the responses of the students in an article in the Journal of Theology in SA (No. 126, 2006).

Although the pandemics of the Plague – HIV/AIDS – Coravid-19 are all different, yet some basic advice Luther gave can be transported into our situation.

I do wish you God’s assistance and support:

that the seed of hope may grow in the light of God’s promise,

that the seed of faith may break through hardened soil day by day to bring its harvest,

and that the seed of love may be implanted into the people of this country and the world so that its fruit will grow and be plentiful for everyone.

 

Georg Scriba 31.3.2020

 

 

Letter to The Honourable Kwazi Mshengu, KZN MEC for Education

29 May 2020

Letter – Department of Education and Teachers’ unions

ATT:       The Honourable Kwazi Mshengu, KZN MEC for Education

Mr. Sandile Phakathi, KZN Head of Ministry for Education

Dr Ngogi Mahaye, Director, KZN Department of Education

Thirona Moodley, Provincial Chief Executive Officer, NAPTOSA

Nomarashiya Caluza, Provincial Secretary, SADTU

C.S. Barnes, General Secretary, NATU

Innes Kritzinger, Provincial Chair, SAOU

Sithembiso Sithole, Provincial Chair, PEU

Dear Colleagues,

We, leaders representing ecumenical churches in KZN, write to you at this time when many are fatigued of lockdown and yet concerned about the risks of allowing our children back to school. We affirm the support and leadership that our government is continuously providing during this challenging time. We equally understand that it is in the interest of government and parents to ensure that the future of our children is not jeopardized by them being out of school for longer than necessary. We also affirm your concern for the safety of every child and educator to be a priority before they can resume their normal activities.

We applaud the announcement made by the Department of Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, that some learners will be able to start returning to school. The truth is that school is where learners spend most of their time not only for education but also for access to food, a safer space than their homes and a space to socialize with their peers.

However, safety in schools during this time of the COVID 19 pandemic is a priority, not only to the learners but also teachers, administration and other support staff. People at risk include those involved in the transportation of the learners to and from school. As a result, parents and guardians need assurance that they are making the right decision when they let their children return to school. With this is also the agreement between the teacher trade unions and the department of basic education on the safety pre-conditions which must be adhered to by government before learning can take place. This agreement is in line with the protocols that have been put in place and the same procedures that are used everywhere else where screening and testing needs to take place.

We note with concern some of the challenges currently faced by schools:

  • Slow or non-delivery of PPE
  • provision of water tanks
  • provision of additional classrooms
  • refurbishment of vandalized classes
  • cleaning and disinfecting of schools

We also note the Statement put out by the SAHRC Urging the Minister of Basic Education to reconsider the date for reopening schools for Grade 7 and 12 learners because the above challenges have not yet been adequately addressed.

We therefore, call on our Provincial government and Teachers’ Unions to support the educators and learners by ensuring that the following issues are prioritized and implemented as a matter of urgency:

  • Speed up the supply and delivery (using local service providers where possible) of PPE.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting of schools
  • A clear plan on teachers and learners with co-morbidities or existing illnesses, including teachers older than 60 years. For learners this needs to include ensuring they have access to age- and grade-appropriate high-quality online and telephonic educational support together with an uncomplicated procedure to register for an online stream.
  • Appointment of people who will administer sanitizing and screening of learners and teachers during school hours
  • Employment of replacement teachers
  • Provision of water tanks where these are not yet in place to ensure hand-washing is possible
  • Additional classrooms to support physical and social distancing
  • Provision of security of the PPE when delivered in schools in light of the burglaries and break-ins that schools have experienced over this time
  • Provision and safety of scholar transport
  • Provision of adequate funding for implementing these measures

We also request that the opening up creches is urgently discussed by the department. As the economy opens, this places care-givers (particularly mothers) in an impossible situation. Additionally, young children are also extremely vulnerable to sexual and other exploitation if they are left alone at home or in the care of an inappropriate family member. We have heard some horrendous reports. Hence our concern that a suitable way forward be found, which safeguards our young children.

We would also like to highlight that there are churches within our coalition who have offered their buildings to be used at this time, as additional classrooms to make physical distancing easier. We are open to discussion on how this could be done.

Finally, we fear that failure to meet these important suggested safety measures will cause a disastrous loss of confidence by parents in government systems thereby eroding all the good work that has been achieved thus far. We offer our prayers for wisdom for you all in this important time.

In faith,

+ Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, OFM, Chairperson of the KwaZulu Natal Church Leaders Group and Chairperson of the KZN Inter Religious Council.

Dean Nkosinathi Myaka, Chairperson of the KwaZulu Natal Christian Council

Bishop Nathi Zondi, on behalf of the Steering Committee of the KZN: Covid 19 Churches Respond project.

KZN Covid-19: Churches Respond: Letter to His excellency, President C. Ramaphosa

11 April 2020
The Presidency President Cyril Ramaphosa Union Buildings Government Avenue Pretoria Email: presidentrsa@presidency.gov.za Copied: Honourable KZN Premier, Sihle Zikalala

Dear Sir, Your Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa

KZN Covid-19: Churches Respond – Affirming your Leadership and Pledging Our Support
We are a broad and inclusive coalition of Churches, Christian Associations, Ecumenical Networks and Ministers’ Fraternals committed to using our extensive footprint across the KwaZulu Natal Province to respond more effectively to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Lockdown and their respective impact.
Your Excellency, today, we wish to applaud and affirm your leadership and that of the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize in this time of disaster. We further express our appreciation for the work of the KZN Premier, Honourable Sihle Zikalala as well as the MEC for Health, Honourable Nomagugu Simelani-Zulu for meeting and updating Church Leaders on the way forward. We express our full support for your government’s efforts to save lives and in the process “flatten the curve”. We do this even as we stand in solidarity and mourning with the millions around KZN and the country whose very lives are threatened by both the Coronavirus and the extended lockdown.
In particular we affirm the generous and commendable example set by you, your Cabinet and the Premiers, of pledging a third of your salary to the Solidarity Fund. This is a powerful gesture of inestimable symbolic value. We gladly notify you that the Churches across the KwaZulu Natal province, are pledging R1 million to the relief emergency in our province.

As a Church united against the pandemic, we are putting together Emergency Relief that will roll-out cash vouchers to 1000 vulnerable families in each of the 11 Districts over the next three months through our Church-based fundraising efforts.

Other elements of our provincial plan include; (i) Communications, Education and Awareness, (ii) Pastoral care and Support, (iii) Advocacy and support around social and economic vulnerability. All of this is undergirded by an inter-denominal space for prayer and theological reflection. Full details are available on our website www.covid19response.co.za.

As Church Leaders, we continue calling on all churches, Christian Associations and ecumenical organisations and networks in KZN to come on board with specific and practical support for the coordinated work taking place at Ward level through the various Church structures we are setting up.

We further support your call for those who have resources to make a similar contribution urgently. Now is the time for sacrifice, for self-sacrificing generosity, and most importantly for Corporate responsibility, care and solidarity.

We are grateful for the third dimension of your latest strategy to address COVID-19, the programme of increased social support to protect poor and vulnerable households. We need to express our anxiety and concern for the poorest and most vulnerable at this time. May we urge you to expedite that relief through the Solidarity Fund as soon as possible.

We are receiving daily calls from across all 11 Districts from desperate individuals and communities, including some who don’t know where their next meal or rental payment is going to come from; from survivors who remain in abusive homes because they are afraid of starvation; from car guards, refugees and casual workers do not have any income. We endorse your call to support these, the most vulnerable urgently.

As we commemorate the death and celebrate the resurrection of Christ this weekend, we move from grief and lamentation to hope and new life for all humanity. This Crisis reminds us that we hold in tension the fear of death on the cross and the hope of the resurrection to a new life of Christ. At this time, we pray most ardently that he creates for us a new, more just dispensation for all South Africans.

Christ is risen! He is alive! The Resurrection is real!

+ Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, OFM, Chairperson of the KwaZulu Natal Church Leaders Group and Chairperson of the KZN Inter Religious Council.

Dean Nkosinathi Myaka, Chairperson of the KwaZulu Natal Christian Council

Bishop KE Khomo, President Interdenominational African Ministers Association in South Africa (IDAMASA)

Bishop B Mchunu, President Church Leaders Council of South Africa (CLCSA)

Bishop Nathi Zondi, Truevine Family of Churches

Rev Sipho Sokhela, National General Secretary South Africa YMCA.

Daniela Gennrich, Coordinator We Will Speak Out South Africa

Rev Gregory Matthei, Baptist Union of Southern Africa

Rev Janice Nomvuyo Mpuqa, Chairperson of the Thukela, Amajuba & Mzinyathi Christian Council

Bishop BM Buthelezi, Chairperson of the KwaZulu Region Christian Council

Archbishop Sthembiso BB Ngcamu, Chairperson of the Southern KwaZulu Natal Christian Council