President John Magufuli has allowed churches and mosques to remain open to allow worshippers ‘pray’ against the deadly virus. However, some religious leaders have gone against the grain by closing their places off worship, citing the risks posed by the coronavirus.
Speaking to BBC, a pastor and Imam said that they opted to close their respective places of worship after seeing the havoc wrecked by COVID-19.
“We have seen how the rapidly the virus spreads within a short time. When the first coronavirus case was reported in our area, we saw it wise to close churches. Africans still have a lot of faith and people have been flocking churches, hence our decision. It’s not that we lack faith or don’t love God, it’s because of the forthcoming danger,” Bishop Severine Niwemugizi said.
He applauded the Tanzania government for seemingly loving God, but noted that staying at home is important in curbing infections.
According to Imam Said Haroun, he closed Msasini mosque in Arusha after a lethargic reaction by his congregants to measures aimed at curbing the virus.
“After a coronavirus case was reported in our area, we noted that our congregants were not adhering to anti-COVID-19 directives. Their lives are important to us and we decided to close the mosque despite the government having not given a directive on the same,” he said.
Magufuli attracted widespread criticism after falsely claiming that the coronavirus cannot survive in places of worship.
“These Holy places are where God is. My fellow Tanzanians, let us not be afraid of going to praise Him. Corona cannot survive in the body of Christ, it will burn,” he said.
His sentiments were later echoed by a popular preacher who blamed Kenya and Rwanda’s then rising coronavirus cases on the closure of churches.
“They are being tested but there are no healings there because they are not going to church, what stupidity is that?” Josephat Gwajima posed during a church service.
However, since the outbreak, infections in South Africa and South Korea were attributed to church gatherings.
On April 22, Magufuli ruled out the possibility of locking down Dar es Salaam, the country’s commercial hub.
“There are those who have suggested that we lockdown Dar es Salaam. This is not possible,” said Magufuli, noting that the town brings in 80% of the country’s revenue.
As at April 21, Tanzania had 284 confirmed coronavirus cases with 10 deaths. 11 people had recovered while 7 were under intensive care.