CTII Statement on Religious Gatherings during Level 3

Cape Town Interfaith Initiative welcomes the announcement of a national day of Prayer on Sunday 31 May.  We also applaud the designation of Faith Leaders as essential workers in the amended Government regulations announced on Tuesday 26 May by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

We see this as an acknowledgement of the pivotal role played by leaders of all faiths in maintaining the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of their communities.

We call upon the government to further support and honour the role of faith leaders through the provision of a specific allowance for faith leaders, particularly those providing a service to economically challenged communities. Many have been severely compromised during the Covid-19 period as the disallowing of gatherings cut them off from earnings in the form of financial offerings collected during services in places of worship.

We also call attention to the possibility that the need for financial support could place some faith leaders in the difficult position of being under pressure to reopen their places of worship before they are reasonably able to meet the criteria laid down in the government guidelines. The financial and logistical implications of meeting the requirements are considerable.  Many places of worship will be unable to comply and will therefore be duty bound to remain closed, compounding the stress on the faith leaders as well as their communities.

CTII appreciates Government’s engagement with faith communities, and the difficulties of catering to all needs at this challenging time. However, we draw attention to the burden of responsibility on faith leaders who continue in many instances to serve whilst they themselves live in penury.

Faith communities and their leaders have traditionally been points of transformation in South Africa. We embrace this opportunity to encourage and lead social transformation. We call on Government to empower this necessary process with specific, targetted financial support.

Many faith leaders have moved forward creatively, staggering services or implementing rotational systems of gathering. Others have taken the difficult but sensitive decision to remain closed for now.  Pastoral care remains a priority for all. As one congregant said: “The church is the people, not the place.”  We urge those responsible for places of worship to exercise extra caution and discernment in their responses. All faith leaders should prioritise continued hygiene protocols including sanitisation of buildings and adherence to the personal protocols of wearing masks, keeping physical distance and hand washing, thereby upholding the sanctity of life and helping to keep environments as safe and Covid-19 free as possible.

CTII encourages prayerful consideration of the implications of our responsibility as Faith and community leaders, and remains committed to promoting understanding, dialogue and right relationship amongst members of all faiths in accordance with the Golden Rule, the Charter for Compassion and our own mission statement.