‘We are protected by prayers’: the sects hampering southern Africa’s vaccine rollout

A group of worshipers gather at a hill in Kuwadzana, Zimbabwe. Photograph: Nyasha Chingono. The Muslim Times has the best collection for religion and science

Source: The Guardian

By Nyasha Chingono

With millions of followers, the stance of some Apostolic church leaders threatens to undermine fight against Covid

Hymnal melodies reverberate around the hillside in Kuwadzana, a Harare suburb. On a blisteringly hot Saturday, members of the Apostolic church, dressed in white, hum and sing together.

Songs, long prayers and a little Bible reading punctuate the outdoor service. It’s a spectacle for passersby.

Since the Zimbabwean government partly reopened church gatherings in August, Apostolic members, known for their open-air worship, can be seen every weekend around the capital.

The government has asked religious groups to endorse the Covid-19 vaccine. The Catholic church, evangelical and adventist groups have done so.

Our preacher gave us an instruction that if we use little stones and holy water he prayed for nothing will happen to our families

Miriam Mushayabasa, Apostolic church member

But with a tradition of not seeking or trusting medical help, some of the “white garment” churches are refusing to encourage congregations to get vaccinated.

With millions of followers across southern Africa, the church’s stance could undermine Zimbabwe’s attempts to vaccinate 60% of the population by December.

“We believe in God, and science is entirely subject to God’s will,” says Gramaridge Musendekwa, of the Vadzidzi Apostolic church.

“I grew up on my parents’ prayers and I am passing it down to my children. My family will not take the vaccine because we are protected by prayers,” says Musendekwa, 38.

“I believe we should not be forced to get vaccinated. For us who grew up without medicine, vaccinations are an insult to our faith and religion. Surely the authorities can achieve whatever they want to do without involving us.”

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