By Fitzgerald Munyoro
There is no need to fear Covid-19 vaccines, some religious organisation leaders have said, and urged members of the general public to take heed of the advice of experts in science and medicine.
The religious leaders have, at the same time, scoffed at any link between Covid-19 vaccinations and so-called “end-time” prophecy in the Christian Bible.
This follows widely circulated messages on social media attempting to link the Covid-19 vaccination to the mark of the beast prophecy found in Revelation 13 verses 16-18.
It has recently emerged that several religious organisations have a neutral or outright supportive stance towards the issue of Covid-19 vaccination.
Inter-religious Association for Peace and Development (IPAPD), provincial coordinator for Manicaland, Bishop Jeremiah Matenhese, said the Covid-19 vaccination initiative has no sinister connection to bible prophecies and those saying such things are merely spreading misinformation.
“Some of us in the religious sector have been saying that the vaccination is somehow linked to the 666 prophecy found in the book of Revelations. These claims have no biblical foundation yet some churches are spreading these lies.
“If someone wanted to poison or kill us, we would have been eliminated long ago.We have been putting chemicals in our water structures and systems for a long time and those water sources are accessible to millions of people, so such allegations are truly unfounded.”
In a telephone interview, spiritual leader and socialite, Prophet Passion Java, also echoed the same sentiments and said the church should not appropriate to itself authority over vaccination programmes which, he said, should be a personal choice.
“I believe that it is one’s personal decision to be vaccinated or not.As a church leader I cannot make that decision for my congregants,” said Java.
The Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) church’s highest decision making body, the General Conference, also distanced itself from the biblical links. In an online video communiqué, Health Ministries director, Dr Alexis Llaguno, said there is neither scientific nor biblical basis that supports the theory that the vaccine carries the mark of the beast.
“One of the things that the rumour going around (claiming), is that the vaccine is the mark of the beast.Now I don’t know what Bible you are referring to or whose authority you are getting it from, but according to the statement of the church, you see what we actually understand is that the mark of the beast is really whom you give your allegiance to, your loyalty. It is not a vaccine.”
The clergy’s remarks follow a vaccine endorsement from United Family International Church (UFIC) leader, Emmanuel Makandiwa, who courted controversy after making a U-turn from earlier remarks he had made urging his followers to shun the vaccine.
In the earlier controversial video clip, Makandiwa is seen saying that he is prepared to be arrested if need be for refusing to take the vaccine.
He seemed to have changed his mind not long after, even distancing himself from his own statements.
“I never said do not take the vaccine,” he said in a new video on his church’s YouTube channel. “Consult your doctors and get full information about your health. In fact me and my family have been vaccinated.”
Meanwhile, a snap survey conducted by this reporter indicated that a good number of Zimbabwean citizens are still sceptical and have no intention of getting vaccinated at all. Chief among the reasons they cite are religion and belief in conspiracy theories published on social media.
A female congregant of the Johanne Marange apostolic sect (nguwotsvuku/red attire), who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she did not need the vaccine because of her religion which teach that holy water and prayer possess healing capabilities for nearly all ailments.
“We do not get vaccinated and none of my children are immunised from the child killer diseases as well. We use water and prayer to heal and recover from all forms of sickness so I do not need the vaccine,” she said.
Winet Dyakonda (21), a university student, believes that the vaccine is being indirectly foisted on people and is not really optional.
“If it was optional why are they forcing it on people by putting all these stringent measures, threatening livelihoods and job security? I am a naturally sceptical person and that alone makes me scared. If it’s optional I should not be forced to get vaccinated,” she said.