Apostolic groups that infuse traditional beliefs into a Pentecostal doctrine are among the most skeptical in Zimbabwe when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, with an already strong mistrust of modern medicine.
Yvonne Binda stands in front of a church congregation, all in pristine white robes, and tells them not to believe what they’ve heard about COVID-19 vaccines, AP reports.
“The vaccine is not linked to Satanism,” she says. The congregants, members of a Christian Apostolic church in the southern African nation of Zimbabwe, are unmoved. But when Binda, a vaccine campaigner and member of an Apostolic church herself, promises them soap, buckets and masks, there are enthusiastic shouts of “Amen!”
Apostolic groups that infuse traditional beliefs into a Pentecostal doctrine are among the most skeptical in Zimbabwe when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, with an already strong mistrust of modern medicine. Many followers put faith in prayer, holy water and anointed stones to ward off disease or cure illnesses.
The congregants Binda addressed in the rural area of Seke sang about being protected by the holy spirit, but have at least acknowledged soap and masks as a defense against the coronavirus. Binda is trying to convince them to also get vaccinated — and that’s a tough sell.
Congregation leader Kudzanayi Mudzoki had to work hard to persuade his flock just to stay and listen to Binda speak about vaccines.
“They usually run away, some would hide in the bushes,” he said.
There has been little detailed research on Apostolic churches in Zimbabwe but UNICEF studies estimate it is the largest religious denomination with around 2.5 million followers in a country of 15 million. The conservative groups adhere to a doctrine demanding that followers avoid medicines and medical care and instead seek healing through their faith.
Conversely, Tawanda Mukwenga, another religious Zimbabwean, welcomed his vaccination as a means of allowing him to worship properly. Mukwenga recently attended Mass at the Roman Catholic cathedral in the capital, Harare, his first in-person Sunday Mass in 10 months after the pandemic closed churches and forced services online. Zimbabwe has reopened places of worship, though worshippers must be vaccinated to enter.
“Getting vaccinated has turned out to be a smart idea,” said Mukwenga, delighted to celebrate Mass at the cathedral again.
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