Johannesburg – The dramatic scenes of police firing stun grenades to disperse and arrest congregants who had illegally gathered for a service in Sebokeng in the Vaal once again raises questions about the role of the church in society.
Late last month, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would return to an adjusted level three of the lockdown regulations, which included a ban on religious gatherings.
As Ramaphosa was preparing to give the nation an update on the fight against the global pandemic, a group of pastors decided to hold a church service in Sebokeng’s Zone 6 last weekend, in defiance of the lockdown regulations.
One of the “men of the cloth”, John Radebe, said they had decided to reopen the doors of the church because the government has “no mandate, no power to rule in the church”.
He declared they could no longer “abide by the ruling of the president” and decried the fact that the shutdown of the church meant there was no offering.
That religious leaders could flagrantly violate the law simply because they are not affiliated to an organisation that the government consulted when putting in place the regulations is cause for concern.
The church has historically played a critical role in many societies.
It continues to be not only a sanctuary of spiritual and moral guidance, but a shelter for the destitute and disenfranchised in society, among others.
The real men and women of the cloth in our beloved country were at the forefront of dismantling the apartheid system. Such is the positive and constructive role that the church has come to be expected to play in society – not to break the law. It must worry us all when offering and tithe-hungry pastors string along their members to violate lockdown regulations.
Their actions are not only reckless but place the lives of congregants at risk of contracting Covid-19, which has infected over 1.2-million South Africans, killing more than 35 800 people. It is disheartening to see some pastors aiding and abetting the violation of the law instead of playing a positive role in the fight against the coronavirus.
Our sincere gratitude goes to the many religious leaders who have heeded the call to close their churches and help the government in its efforts to curb the spread of the disease. Religious leaders must reflect on the state of the church and its role in society.
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