Originally published in Sowetan Live
We will obey God, not men.”
With these words, executive board member of the International Federation of Christian Churches (IFCC) Bishop Mosa Sono says their affiliate churches will adhere to the 50% capacity of congregants ahead of the Easter weekend, but will not demand proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test result from their congregants.
“We are calling on all our members to attend Easter services, celebrations and festivals. We encourage our members to continue wearing mask indoors, practise social distancing and sanitise their hands as they walk into buildings. That is all we are asking of them. We will not be asking anyone for a proof of a vaccination certificate,” said Sono. He was speaking at the IFCC media briefing on Tuesday.
The press conference was to give their response to the government’s announcement that indoor and outdoor venues can take 50% of their capacity but if attendance exceeds 1 000 indoors or 2 000 outdoors entry must be on condition that a proof of vaccination or negative Covid-19 test not older than 72 hours is provided. Failure to comply, the government said, was an offence which would lead to a conviction, liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both.
The IFCC represents Grace Bible Church, Rhema Bible Church, Hope Restoration Ministries, Christian Revival Church (CRC) and Rhema Umtata Christian Church.
Sono was flanked by executive members of the IFC — general secretary pastor Giet Khosa, Rev Chris Mathebula, Pastor Bert Pretorius, Pastor At Boshoff and Pastor Thobile Magerman at the briefing held at the CRC in Fourways, Johannesburg.
Sono said after numerous meetings with the government and their suggestions falling on deaf ears, they were left with no choice but to prioritise catering for the “moral needs” of their members instead of a select few.
“We are strongly opposed to this idea [proof of vaccination]. It is ill-advised. To discriminate against people who are not vaccinated is a violation of their basic human rights. We will, in no, way discriminate against the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. We refuse to label the unvaccinated as modern day lepers. Nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever prohibited from entering the temple of God because of a condition or an ailment.
“The vaccine certificates [requirement] go against what we stand for and the work we do as the religious community. It is an unfortunate situation and I believe it is even more unfortunate that we are dealing with this during the most holy week on the Christian calendar. Unfortunately, we just have to speak like Peter and say we will obey God and not men,” said Sono.
Pastor At Boshoff senior pastor of Christian Revival Church said they would not sit back and watch churches being treated unfairly.
“If you expect us to comply with something that we deem as unjust, discriminatory according to scripture, and you say it is a criminal act, then I want to ask would you have said the same thing during apartheid when the Tutus [Desmond Tutu], Beyers Naudes stood up against a government that brought oppression? We cannot allow for South Africa to be controlled again by a government that has no respect for the religious sector and community,” said Boshoff.
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