March 26, 2020
Issued by the office of the SACC General Secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana.
South African Council of Churches (SACC) congratulates President Cyril
Ramaphosa and his various Cabinet Ministers, for showing commendable
leadership during this unprecedented time, when the coronavirus pandemic
is causing havoc globally and taking lives. We are conscious of the
inconveniences this will cause to worship life. But, in recognition that
the Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads mostly through human contact, the
churches should not want their worshipping congregations to become
channels of mass infection, as it happened in South Korea.
As we begin the 21-day national lockdown tonight, there are many with
anxieties about the next few weeks, as well as possible depression, and
pressures in family and home. This may exacerbate domestic tensions in
families, with an increase of domestic violence and other unfortunate
extremities. Elderly people and some people with disabilities, who
regularly need someone to come from outside to assist them with certain
essential support, will be hard pressed to cope. The churches are
conscious of these realities, and call on all South Africans to heed the
call to recognise a moment of prayer tonight between 18:00 and 18:30.
Beyond today’s prayer, the SACC appeals to South Africans to commit to
prayer each week day at noontime. We shall make further announcements
concerning special prayers over the holy week of Good Friday and Easter.
We urge all SACC member churches, the greater religious and faith
communities, and the society at large to abide by the laws and
regulations that have been instituted. Do so for your own good, as well
as for the greater good, in order to help us to curb the spread and stop
the infection. How we behave during these 21 days will determine
whether we can end the virus in South Africa, without further
infections. It is now upon us to diligently observe the proclaimed 21
days’ lockdown period, as our religious duty to protect and hopefully
save lives. We follow Jesus Christ, the Lord of life!
Meeting with President and Cabinet Ministers
Today, 26 March 2020, the SACC, along with leaders of the Muslim faith,
Imaam Ebrahim Bham and Mr Suliman; and the Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein
of the Jewish Community, met with President Ramaphosa and some cabinet
ministers – Minister Jackson Mthembu, Minister Angie Motshekga, Minister
Ronald Lamola, and Minister Lindiwe Zulu – to discuss, just ahead of
the lockdown, a number of issues that the religious leaders wished to
raise with Government. In particular, the SACC wished to share with
Government its proposed Coronavirus Lockdown Pastoral Plan.
Both the President and Ministers agreed that in the context of the
COVID-19 crises, religious leaders are essential at this time to help
provide pastoral care to communities, especially the vulnerable; the
dying and bereaved; the elderly and psychologically distressed; and that
Government will look at ways in which this could be facilitated without
contravening the necessarily stringent laws and regulations against the
movement of people. For indeed we need to all adopt a LOCK DOWN mentality, as would be if we were at war with the country under physical attack and bombs spraying around. That calls for a mind-set of STAY-AT-HOME!
In this difficult time the SACC joins other South African organisations
and faith communities in committing to serve and be a source of comfort
for God’s people, a cardinal part of the vocation of the Church. In that
spirit, the SACC is establishing a Lockdown Pastoral Plan, and it is
based on the pillars of communication, care, relief, and support and
Setting Up of Digital Platform for Communication
We are setting up some technological platforms that will enable digital
communication and information sharing, including a WhatsApp service to
the local congregations of churches. This will be a two-way
communication platform – top down and bottom up – that all communities
can access through their groups of congregations, or any other local
community group that can join the platform from anywhere in South
Africa. An SACC central joint operation centre (JOC) has been set up,
which will be seized with distributing credible information and
religious messaging to communities, as well as receiving information on
the ground, for community needs and mapping purposes. This will be done
through the leaders of local congregations and the local JOCs at
community level. The SACC JOC will be linked up to the National
Government JOC on COVID-19, so that we can collaborate on the sharing of
essential information in order to help people.
The SACC appreciates the disruption that the lockdown measures cause to
some of the sacred responsibilities that the religious community
exercises in its life, such as funerals and pastoral care to the
vulnerable. This crisis demands of all us to act with maximum restraint.
To this end the SACC has agreed to work closely with government so as
to respond appropriately where the need arises for such work to be done,
without risking the lives of the people.
Call to Action
South Africa, this is the time when we are being called upon to be a
responsible and considerate citizenship. The religious community must
help to lead the community at this time, and be creative, as they
already have, in ministering to the community within legal bounds. Let
us ALL as society, exercise obedience, kindness and commitment to
combating COVID-19, with all the challenges and personal tests it will
take us through.
We appeal to society to comply with all laws of the lockdown under these
difficult times, to ensure not just your own, but everyone’s safety so
that we can overcome this pandemic.
For resources and more info on #Coronavirus #COVID-19: