Heads of Christian Ecumenical Bodies in Ghana have expressed their preparedness to resume activities, as they put together a proposal for the government to clearly spell out modalities under which they can safely perform their programmes without endangering the lives of congregants as the COVID-19 rages on.
The proposal is a follow up to a meeting between President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and leaders of the Christian faith at the Jubilee House on April 21, 2020.
The proposal, a copy of which was sighted by the Daily Graphic, is advocating strict adherence to all prescribed precautionary etiquettes against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), including providing separate seating areas for the aged.
However, the Founder of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC), Rev. Dr Mensa Otabil, and the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) say it is too early to lift the ban on public, social and religious gatherings, given that the case counts of the pandemic are still rising.
The proposal by the Ecumenical Bodies is to be jointly presented by the Chairman of the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG), the Most Rev. Dr Paul Boafo; the President of the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council (GPCC), Rev. Prof. Yaw Frimpong-Manso; the President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference (GCBC), the Most Rev. Phillip Naameh, and the President of the National Association of Charismatic and Christian Churches (NACCC), Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams.
The proposal identifies some risk areas for the spread of the virus and proffers solutions to mitigate them.
Among the areas are entry points to churches, such as doors and door handles, rails and pillars, and seating arrangements in the churches.
The churches have expressed their commitment in the proposal to ensure that services such as offertory, communion and giving or receiving offering and tithes are carried out in line with the safety protocols.
Furthermore, they offered to form COVID-19 response teams in their respective churches, in addition to stepping up education on the pandemic by engaging members and people within their environs.
Meanwhile, during his virtual church service yesterday, Dr Otabil said churches had to endure the ban, since the crisis was not easing.
“This is not the time for churches to consider gathering together in assemblies because the crisis before us is not going down. Just when we thought in Ghana we were having control over the situation, we are beginning to realise the virus has a mind of its own. It doesn’t seem to correspond to some of the efforts we are making,” he said.
Dr Otabil called for patience during the current phase, while waiting for the time when churches could safely reopen for fellowship.
“It may not seem suitable to us, but that is the price we pay to make the world a better place,” he said.
He further advised his fellow worshipers to wait until it was safe to gather in one accord and emphasised that churches had a role to play in protecting society by urging adherence to current protocols, even though they were uncomfortable.
GMA says ‘no’
In a related development, the GMA has urged President Akufo-Addo not to lift the ban on social gatherings, which include religious activities, schools, marriages and funerals, as the country continued to record high numbers of COVID-19 cases.
The association also wants the President to ensure that all Ghanaians complied with all the protocols for preventing the spread of the virus.
In a statement jointly signed and issued by its President, Dr Patrick Ankobea, and the General Secretary, Dr Justice Yankson, last Saturday, the GMA said: "Non-adherence to the COVID-19 preventive measures at this point in our collective fight against the disease has a huge potential to erode any gains made so far."
"This also has the propensity to escalate further spread of the disease,” it added.
It said the seeming disregard for all the preventive measures put in place by large sections of the population was a major threat to curtailing the disease in the country.
A ban was placed on all public, social and religious gatherings by President Akufo-Addo on March 15 as part of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease.
When he extended the ban, the President said there was a unanimous decision with the leaders of the major interest groups that it was early to lift it.
However, in preparation for the eventual lifting of the ban, the leaders of the Christian Ecumenical Bodies have presented the proposal.