Epidemics that ravage populations date way back in the biblical days. So, the New Coronavirus might be nothing new after all.
For some believers, pandemics are God’s way of communicating to people but in the same bible that reveals some of the worst plagues that were ever known to man, you will find ways of how people can conduct themselves to survive such outbreaks
“Death has come up into our windows, it has entered our palaces, to cut off the children from the streets and the young men from the squares,” reads Jeremiah 9:20.
Though many religious theories regarding pandemics are meant to propagate fear to prompt people to change their ways, the simple rules in the Bible suggest how people can handle themselves to overcome an outbreak.
In a similar manner, Bishop Emmanuel Ngendahayo, the Head of the Anglican Church of Rwanda (EAR), Byumba Diocese, has found ways to encourage his flock to adhere to measures against the New Coronavirus, using biblical practices, which he says if followed can limit the spread of the virus.
The clergyman launched a campaign on August 1 to sensitise people in the district of Gicumbi, which was among the first districts to register cases of COVID-19, to adhere to government measures which include wearing a face mask, ensuring social distancing and observing proper hygiene.
“We have been encouraging and sensitizing members of our community, using different media platforms, to listen to the government and do as they are told, in line with the prevention of the virus. A true Christian who is self-loving and values the lives of others, must conduct themselves in the right manner,”
“These values of being cautious are enshrined in the Bible, in the days epidemic diseases such as leprosy and plagues used to affect societies. People would be encouraged to isolate themselves for their own protection and in order to protect others,” the Anglican Church Bishop said on Saturday.
Bishop Ngendahayo made the remarks over the weekend while launching the diocese’s ‘Run for Rwanda’ annual activity – a 5-km run held by the diocese in partnership with friends of the church in Colorado Springs, U.S, to raise funds to build community projects in the diocese.
The run, which is held both in Rwanda and in U.S, helps the diocese to fund some of its community social development projects to support vulnerable households in Byumba diocese. This year’s activity was directed towards sensitizing masses on the preventive measures of COVID-19.
“We are encouraging people, especially believers to shun the usual practices of ‘I am familiar with you, so we can embrace’ as a form of greeting. The bible tells us that we must love our neighbours as we love ourselves. The best way to love yourself is to take care of yourself as you take care of others,”
“As we have seen, the pandemic comes as an invisible thief. You can’t see it with a bare eye. It is important for us as Christians to be role models by adhering to the government directives and be examples for others,” Bishop Ngendahayo said.
As part of the activity, the diocese held a march against COVID-19 and other activities, conducted with social distancing, and distributed protective wear and hand sanitizers as part of the campaign against the pandemic.
While previously runners to support the cause travelled from the U.S and beyond to support the activity, this year’s event was limited by COVID-19, with participants in Colorado Springs, participating in a solidarity run in Cottonwood Creek Park, Colorado Springs. In Rwanda, the event was held in Kabali Cell, Byumba Sector in Gicumbi district.
More than 500 people, spread out in a playground, were given masks, hand sanitizers and soap during a community discussion centred on fighting COVID-19.
Valeria Nyirakaje, one of the recipients said that while most people are aware of the preventive measures, some don’t feel the need to buy the masks, sanitizers or soap while Jean Baptiste Ruvubi, a member of the church said that people had become complacent.
“This campaign was necessary because people have become reluctant when it comes to adhering to the rules set by the government,”
“In general, people try to follow the rules, but sometimes they become relaxed and often you find that young people don’t wear masks or if they do, they will not wear them properly,” Ruvubi said.
The Gicumbi District Youth, Culture and Sports Officer, Diodore Rwirangira, who participated in the activity said that Church can play a big role in the prevention of COVID-19 because some devotees only listen when the clergy speak.
“We are still seeing many people who don’t want to wear their masks properly. We believe that if the Church leaders tell them, hopefully they will listen this time and cooperate,” Rwirangira said, urging young people in particular to take heed of the measures.
Through its annual ‘Run for Rwanda’ activity, Bishop Ngendahayo said that over the last 13 years, with the support of friends and partners, they have been able to build a health centre in Kabali, which serves over 12,000 people, distributed cows under Girinka programme, paid health insurance for hundreds of people and build houses for vulnerable households.
‘Run for Rwanda’ is an initiative of the Byumba EAR Diocese and the Anglican Church in Colorado Springs, U.S. The run is held annually in both countries and the proceeds go to community development initiatives in the Northern Province diocese.