TO DELIBERATE ON RE-OPENING OF PLACES OF WORSHIP… NACOVERC & INTER RELIGIOUS COUNCIL HOLD THIRD ENGAGEMENT

By Edward Vamboi

Officials of the National COVID-19 Emergency Response Center (NaCOVERC) held its third engagement with the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) on the 4th August 2021 at the Bank Complex, Kingtom in Freetown.

In his statement the Chairperson of NaCOVERC, Sheku Bangura, intimated the IRCSL of the significant drop in case numbers, positivity rate, incidence rate and hospitalization, but was quick to point out that, as a nation, we are dealing with a propagated outbreak.

He hailed the good collaboration with the IRCSL and as well commended the patience and understanding of inter-faith community stating how such is an aggregate of our nation.

In his contribution, Rev Jessie Fornah, Secretary General of the Inter Religious Council of Sierra Leone commended the NaCOVERC team for the sacrificial work in making sure the country reaches to where it is now in terms of reduction in COVID-19 cases. He then came forward with certain suggestions which include that NACOVERC should allow religious leaders to willingly make a choice for vaccination and not to be required to do anything that will go against their beliefs.

“Nobody should be forced to take the vaccine because our beliefs are different,” he reiterated adding how they will continue to support the efforts of NACOVERC.

He also suggested that places of worship should be opened and for both parties to revisit the recommendations/ Protocols used the last time.

Other Speakers made similar statements for churches to reopen, including Bishop J Archibald Cole, and advised that the places of Worship be opened after the two weeks.

Speaking on behalf of the President of the Pentecostal Fellowship Sierra Leone (PFSL), Bishop Akintayo Sam-Jolly and other members, Apostle Dr. Abednego Kamara, said he is firmly reiterating that Churches must be opened highlighting how  statement made by the NaCOVERC Spokesman, Solomon Jamiru, recently on the SLBC Morning Coffee Program that some places of worship will have vaccination centers set up to scale up the uptake of the vaccine is unacceptable and appealed for that to be looked into.

In his summary statement, NaCOVERC Boss made the following statements: Places of Worship will be re-opened, that the old guidelines will be revisited and implemented, NaCOVERC guidelines should be followed to the letter namely, washing of hands, use of Face Masks, taking of temperature ,social distancing, half of the congregation should attend a service and 90 minutes per service

It was also discussed that those that are representing the IRCSL are not attending meetings with the exception of one Muslim representative. The others were asked to be replaced even though one is reported sick and other quite busy or so.

Also agreed upon was that religious leaders should encourage their members to take the vaccine even though nobody will be forced.

NaCOVERC expressed sincere thanks and appreciation to the IRCSL for not just lending policy and operational contributions to the Response, but for prayers and counsel.

Both stakeholders recognize the critical importance of places of worship in the fight against COVID-19 and remain submitted unto God for wisdom and strength.

The meeting ended amicably

Courtesy of the Calabash 6 August 2021

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