“There is no Ebola in Zambia, West Africa is far..”, church defies handshaking warning

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Some Christian leaders say they will continue shaking hands and hugging in their church congregations despite medical advice against doing so in the wake of the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The clergymen contend that the disease is not a threat in Zambia and so there is no need to stop the tradition of shaking hands and hugging during church services and after.
But many other church leaders say they will heed the medical advice, with some of them saying they have already stopped the tradition of shaking of hands.
St. Ignatius Catholic Church parish priest Charles Chilinda said Ebola is not a threat in Zambia and so his congregation will continue the practice of shaking hands in the tradition known as ‘Chibote’ in the Catholic church.
“There is no Ebola in Zambia, West Africa is far. The same way we treat each other when there’s a cholera outbreak is the way we’ll treat the Ebola menace. There is nothing to fear,” Father Chilinda said in an interview in Lusaka yesterday.
City of Refuge Church International overseer Kangwa Chileshe said his church will not discourage handshakes because there is no threat of the disease in Zambia.
“It is a question of wisdom and therefore we will apply wisdom because it is unchristian not to be wise, the same way we enlighten our members when there is a cholera outbreak. However, I do not think we have to take such measures discouraging our congregants to stop handshaking or embracing now because there is no threat in Zambia and we do not want to cause alarm,” he said.
“There is no Ebola in Zambia, West Africa is far. The same way we treat each other when there’s a cholera outbreak is the way we’ll treat the Ebola menace. There is nothing to fear,” Father Chilinda said in an interview in Lusaka yesterday.
City of Refuge Church International overseer Kangwa Chileshe said his church will not discourage handshakes because there is no threat of the disease in Zambia.
“It is a question of wisdom and therefore we will apply wisdom because it is unchristian not to be wise, the same way we enlighten our members when there is a cholera outbreak. However, I do not think we have to take such measures discouraging our congregants to stop handshaking or embracing now because there is no threat in Zambia and we do not want to cause alarm,” he said.
Pastor Chileshe said, however, that the church will co-operate with Government, especially that church is a place where there are mass gathering of people from different communities.
Last Friday, Ministry of Health acting spokesperson Dennis Mulenga advised the public against unnecessary handshakes as a precautionary measure against spreading the Ebola virus despite Zambia not recording any cases of the disease.
Over 1,000 people have died of Ebola in West Africa.  The highly contagious disease is passed on through body fluids such as sweat and blood.
Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) executive director Pukuta Mwanza says the Church has an important role to play in sensitising its flock because it is one place of mass gatherings.
Reverend Mwanza said the Church will continue to support measures being put in place by Government to reduce chances of contracting the Ebola virus.
“Shaking of hands is a culture that is widely practised not only in churches but communities, too. It is part of our tradition as Zambians but if that practice can contribute to the spread, then we will discourage our members until we are advised otherwise. We all know that Ebola has no cure and prevention is better than cure,” he said.
Inter-denominational Churches of Zambia coordinator Joseph Musuku said Government must incorporate the church in its sensitisation campaign so that they are equally well-informed on the Ebola virus.
“Handshaking and embracing in churches is widely practised because that is how we express love.
“It might be difficult to convince our flock to do [stop handshaking and hugging] but we are ready to work with Government where the Ebola virus is concerned. We will adopt all precautionary measures as advised because this Ebola is real,” Bishop Musuku said.
Jesus Ministry Church Harry Njenka said his church has already discouraged its flock from unnecessary handshaking and embracing.
“We have already adopted these precautionary measures: no handshakes, hugs in church, at conferences or during overnight prayer meetings. We are aware that there is no outbreak in Zambia but we need to be safe and support Government in its preparedness campaigns,” Bishop Njenka said.
“Let’s deal with things the way they are whether spiritually or naturally,” Bishop Njenka said.
Independent Churches of Zambia (ICOZ) board chairperson David Masupa said there is need for churches in the country to avoid unnecessary handshakes in church or at funerals although it is widely practised in Zambia as a show of love.
“We want to thank Government for considering working with the Church in putting up precautionary measures towards the Ebola disease. We received a letter from the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) to take part in the matter at hand,” he said.
As part of Government’s preparedness, people have been advised against unnecessary physical contact. Government has also provided protective gear, such as rubber boots, rubber gloves, rubber hoods, water- tight and airproof suits, which is being distributed countrywide.

Zambia Daily Mail

Sunday, 24 August 2014

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