Neziswa Kanju explains the dilemma for South African Christians over Easter — and a constructive response that involved government, DSTV and TBN Africa.
On March 23 President Cyril Ramaphosa instituted a national lockdown which effectively restricted citizen’s movements and gathering except for essential services. There was a national call to “stay at home.”
Prior to the national lockdown gatherings of 100 people were permitted which meant that churches could still meet if they adhered to the crowd limit. Following the lockdown restrictions churches were faced with the challenge of how they were going to conduct their services moving forward.
The lockdown presents challenges to the church community as various churches meet during the week and meet weekly on Sundays. These past two weeks many pastors preached their sermons online encouraging their members to join them for the services.
Because the lockdown falls within the Easter period which is celebrated and observed globally by the Christian community the lockdown further presents more challenges to how the various denominations are going to observe Easter this year. Some churches wanted to still go ahead with the celebrations as they felt that the lockdown restrictions were a violation of their religious rights.
Because of the realities that we are facing as a nation and the restrictions the lockdown has on the church community the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams put a call out to the various broadcasting channels to provide content for the 80% South African Christian religious fraternity who observe Easter.
DSTV has decided to launch a new, pop-up channel catering for the different Christian groupings. The channel is set to launch today (April 9) with rich content aimed at viewers who are home over the Easter weekend.
DSTV together with the TBN in Africa collaborated on forming a pop-up channel which will provide Easter-related content to the millions of Christians who will be at home.
The channel, named African Easter (DStv 344), will provide programmes by many well-known Christian musicians, including Dr Tumi, Khaya Mthethwa, Lebo Sekgobela, Tim Godfrey and Benjamin Dube. There will be preaching by leading Christian ministers both from the African continent and abroad.
Calvo Mawela, MultiChoice Group CEO, said: “We are happy to have immediately responded to the minister’s call to assist millions of South African worshippers who regard Easter as a pivotal period of worship. As a responsible broadcaster, we are more than happy to partner with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies as we afford worshippers to observe Easter from the comfort of their homes.”
The channel can be found on Channel 344 from April 9 to April 13 (Easter Monday). Christians across Africa are encouraged to join the African Easter services and not to feel isolated, despondent and discouraged that they could not fellowship with their local church members.
Lucky Mbiko, Managing Director of TBN in Africa said: “We have responded to this call by partnering with churches, and some of the biggest Gospel artists to bring you the best Easter worship experience to as many viewers as possible. Join us on the African Easter Channel (DStv 344) for four days during the Easter Weekend.”
Some churches have said that they will postpone Easter this year. They are not completely cancelling the Easter celebrations but will have them at a later date after the lockdown. For four days they will be celebrating with believers across the continent observing the crucifixion and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Accordingly, African Easter Channel’s offering of music and sermons are bound to keep DSTV viewers engaged and fulfilled during the four days of the channel going live.
Loyiso Bala, head of programming at TBN in Africa says: “It has been a crazy but amazing ride working with the TBN Africa team. This Easter we are bringing Easter to your home with the African Easter channel where the Christian community can gather in praise and worship and listen to messages of hope including a variety of programmes catering for your spiritual needs.”