Faith leaders not amused by new COVID-19 rules, govt to consult them

Catholic Bishops
  • Faith leaders claim were not consulted on new COVID-19 measures

Government has bowed down to pressure to revisit it's decision of banning religious gatherings effective Saturday August 8, 2020.

Minister of Health, Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, said in a public notice issued on Sunday August 9, 2020 that they have resolved to engage religious leaders on the matter because they are key stakeholders in the fight against further spread of the pandemic.

"The Ministry of Health had received expressions of concern from leaders of the faith community regarding the recently gazetted rules for the Prevention, Containment, and Management of Covid-19.

"The Ministry has resolved to engage religious leaders in further consultations. The aim of these additional consultations is to reach a consensus regarding contextualised methods of applying the rules to religious gatherings that protect religious freedom without compromising the public safety the rules are designed to achieved," reads in part the notice.

It also thanked the faith community for urging it's flock to comply with the gazetted rules despite showing reservations.

The Catholic Church in its statement issued on Sunday August 9, 2020 said they have cancelled all the gatherings in respect to the new rules on fighting COVID-19.

The statement signed by the Episcopal Conference of Malawi Chairperson, Bishop Thomas Msusa of Blantyre Archdiocese, his Vice Bishop Martin Mtumbuka of Karonga Diocese, Bishop Tarsizio Ziyaye of Lilongwe Archdiocese, Bishop Peter Musikuwa of Chikwawa Diocese, Bishop Montfort Sitima of Mangochi Diocese, Bishop George Tambala of Zomba Diocese, Bishop John Ryan of  Mzuzu Diocese and Father John Chithonje an administrator of Dedza Diocese, has blamed government for sidelining them.

"The Episcopal Conference of Malawi wishes to express it's displeasure at the manner the new guidelines have been issued. They have taken us by surprise. We were neither informed nor consulted despite the fact that we have been in the forefront lobbying for COVID-19 compliant behavior.

"However, since we are law abiding, we the Catholic Bishops instruct all the Clergy , the Religious and the Laity to suspend forthwith all public church gatherings until further notice. In the meantime we shall engage the government to see our true role in preventing the further spread of COVID-19," reads the statement titled 'Government Ban on Public Gatherings'.

The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) also accused the government of rushing into gazetting the rules without consulting them.

Pac spokesperson, Bishop Gilford Matonga, told one of the local TV stations that the gathering restrictions on religious groups is an indirect closure of the insistutions.

The new public health prevention management and containment rules has banned public gatherings of more than ten people except for meetings on COVID-19 intervations, funerals or National Assembly.

It also makes mandatory wearing of face masks in public, failing which you risk paying a K10,000 fine, an amount out of reach for most Malawians.