Nation prepares for Easter celebrations; covid or no covid

Kamogelo Muvhenzhe

Churches and millions of congregants want to celebrate this Easter Weekend as if there was no Covid-19 pandemic.

Over 1.5 million South Africans contracted the coronavirus over the past year but just 52 648 died.

It could have been worse.

It is exactly this sense of thankfulness that is expected to drive millions of congregants to church to praise and worship. 

This week, more than 170 churches are preparing a court challenge against the government, demanding it allow bigger gatherings of worshippers during the Easter weekend. 

At the moment gatherings of up to 50% of maximum capacity of mass halls are allowed and just 250 outdoors.

During Easter last year the country was at level 5 lockdown, no travel between provinces was allowed and many churches had to cancel their Easter services.

The decision saved many lives. 

Now there are fears that large gatherings in churches,  events, festivities and interprovincial travelling could trigger a third wave.

Hundreds of thousands of people will be travelling to their respective rural provinces from big cities using public transport.

The same people will be gathering at their respective places of worship to celebrate Easter, a move the government says might put a lot of lives in danger.

Advocate Nadene Badenhorst of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) said they will continue to do whatever is necessary to make sure that religious rights, including the right to meet collectively with other congregants are respected. 

April is traditionally an important month in the religious calendar of both Christians who celebrate Easter and Muslims who observe Ramadan. 

“We will continue to talk  with the government  whether  through the courts or engagement to make sure that religious rights are respected and protected,” Badenhorst said.

South African Council of Churches Chairperson in Limpopo, Reverend Awedani Nemawukhwe, said until the President announces any change in levels they are ready to host church services.

“We know large gatherings expose people to the virus unnecessarily and we have cut our cluster gatherings to individual congregations,” he said.

“We would love to have more than 250 people in gatherings but we understand that whatever level we are put on it is not a punishment but a preventative measure.”

The Zion Christian Church, one of the largest churches in Africa cancelled their Easter pilgrimage last year and have not said anything about holding their annual conference this year.

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