Statement on news of Religious Gatherings at Level 3

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The Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute, SAFCEI, welcomes the engagement between faith representatives and the South African government regarding the reopening of places of worship under Level 3.

We appreciate the acknowledgement that faith leaders are essential workers, thereby respecting the pivotal supportive role they play in all communities.

We are deeply grateful to all the leaders who have worked so hard over the past two months to assist the most vulnerable and crucially ensuring food availability for their communities. We are aware of many heroic stories of faith leaders working under stressful conditions, to maintain the spiritual and physical wellbeing of those under their care.

We are also cognisant of the extra responsibilities placed on the shoulders of the clergy with the latest amendment to the regulations announced by President Ramaphosa on 26th May 2020.

With places of worship allowed to reopen from the beginning of June 2020, maintaining safety, ensuring physical distancing, adhering to hygiene protocols including the wearing of masks and sanitising places of worship before and after services will have significant logistical and financial implications.

We commend the creative reorganising of many faith communities to accommodate the regulations and to keep everyone safe.

We counsel all faith leadership to treat this opportunity to reopen places of worship with great responsibility. The individual circumstances of each congregation needs to be carefully considered.

SAFCEI encourages leaders of all faiths to reflect prayerfully on their role as agents of change. We appeal to leaders and their advisory councils to consider carefully where best to focus their efforts.

The sanctity of all life must be upheld at all times, within an environment of compassionate support, safety and sustainability. The ongoing wellbeing of communities must be the primary goal.

SAFCEI is committed to the continued support of all faith communities as we strive to foster the principles of the Charter for Compassion as well as the Earth Charter.

We understand that human wellbeing is dependent on access to adequate and affordable health care, nutrition, energy, water and shelter. Care and concern for vulnerable human communities is inseparable from our care for the Earth that supports all life.

Image Source: Safcei