Some of the “white garment” churches are refusing to encourage congregations to get vaccinated against COVID-19 saying they are protested by prayers.
With millions of followers across southern Africa, the church’s stance could undermine Zimbabwe’s attempts to vaccinate 60% of the population by December. Says a 38-year-old Gramaridge Musendekwa, of the Vadzidzi Apostolic church:
We believe in God, and science is entirely subject to God’s will.
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.
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.
Miriam Mushayabasa, 34, a mother-of-three, and a member of St Peters Apostolic church in Harare believes she does not need a vaccine. She said:
Our preacher gave us a clear instruction that if we use these little stones and holy water, he prayed for, nothing will happen to our families. Since Covid-19 began last March, my family and I have never suffered from this disease, we are as strong as ever.
My children are strong, so I have no cause to fear. I have always believed in prayers and this is how I choose to go through this pandemic.
While the government mandates only the vaccinated can attend religious services, it is tough to enforce in the Apostolic churches, who meet outdoors on hilltops and in fields.
Zimbabwe’s vaccination programme has inoculated 15% of the population since it began in February. It is one of 15 African countries to have achieved the World Health Organisation target of 10% of citizens by September.