The Pentecostal Fellowship of Sierra Leone (PFSL) has rejected plans by the Government of Sierra Leone to use churches as COVID -19 vaccination centres.
This follows a a meeting held in Freetown in which they addressed issues bordering on the closure of places of worship.
At the meeting which was called specifically for Bishops, Reverends and Overseers of ministries, a firm position was taken that PFSL churches will not be used as COVID -19 vaccination centres.
This position was taken as a result of the statements made by the NaCOVERC spokesman Solomon Jamiru, during an edition of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC), Morning Coffee programme. Among other things, Mr. Jamiru said that “places of worship will have vaccination centers set up to scale up the uptake of the vaccines.”
Before the meeting, a letter had been sent by the PFSL to NaCOVERC, stating that it is out of place for any institution or individual to instruct or put preachers under pressure to tell the flock of God what an institution demands.
The letter states PFSL’s objection to the insinuation that anyone of their churches have served as conduits of transmission of the virus. Also the PFSL found it “worrisome that a NaCOVERC official could make insinuations that religious houses compromised the health regulations developed for the lockdown. They also requested for references that give credence to the assertion that churches could be vectors of transmission. The letter categorically stated the following; “we have not stopped our members from being vaccinated but we cannot and will not collaborate to “enforce” vaccination.”
Bishop Akintayo Sam-Jolly, President of PFSL, responding to the said interview at the meeting, re-stated unequivocally that the PFSL does not agree with any suggestion made to religious leaders to get their members vaccinated. He said that Pastors are not instructed by individuals or institutions but by God who called them. He reiterated the call of Christians for the suspension of congregational worship to be lifted and informed all present that his leadership had already communicated that information to the NaCOVERC authorities.
On the issue of the appeal that the Inter Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) made to Pastors to encourage their members to be vaccinated, Bishop Sam-Jolly said that PFSL’s position is that their members are at liberty to make their personal informed decision on the matter – one he referred to as “a critical health matter”. The PFSL President encouraged all present to emulate Daniel in the Bible, and continue in prayer and fasting until there is a positive change.
Lawyer Rashid Dumbuya who had attended the last meeting at NaCOVERC and had earlier researched and produced a report on the compliance of Churches and Mosques during the first lockdown, was given an opportunity to make a statement.
Rashid Dumbuya Esq. appreciated the actions of PFSL in addressing the issue of suspension of congregational worship and he endorsed the stance of the PFSL on the reopening of Churches.He talked about the constitutional operation of the IRCSL and revealed that the Body has its limitations in speaking on behalf of the Church, as it is an inter-faith organisation. In that vein, he stressed the need for Christians in Sierra Leone to form an umbrella organisation that would encompass all denominations and be eligible to handle and articulate the stance of Christians in national situations.
Some men of God who made comments include Apostle Dr. Moses Kay, who expressed the fact that unity is needed among Pentecostals nationwide. He said that Pentecostals must go beyond the multiple small groups, put their differences aside and come onboard “this major platform”- the PFSL. He made it clear that the strength of the Church is the Pulpit. It is the duty of the Pastors to state what their position is on matters and not to attack the President of the nation. He emphasized the role of the Pastor which is to preach the word and not to force anyone to take the vaccine. “This is the work of medical personnel and not the work of the Pastors,” he concluded.
Ministers of the Gospel who made contributions, celebrated the role of the PFSL President in handling the issues regarding the suspension of Church services, and encouraged him to continue the good work. Pastors pledged their full support and promised to lift him up in prayers daily. All Pastors present were encouraged to do likewise.
The following resolutions were agreed upon as the PFSL’s position:
1. PFSL will continue to be partners in development with the governments of Sierra Leone.
2. PFSL calls for an immediate lifting of the suspension of congregational worship.
3. PFSL churches would not use their premises as vaccination centers.
4. PFSL views it unscriptural to coerce its constituents into making these health related decisions. The Fellowship is duty bound to pass on the necessary information to its members and the onus is on the members to decide on what works well for them.
5. PFSL takes exception to the way the Church has been mistreated repeatedly and calls for proper consultation and dialogue on matters affecting constituents of the Fellowship and the nation.
6. PFSL leadership stands by the submission made to the Secretary General of the IRCSL that proper notice of meetings should come from NaCOVERC except in the event of emergencies.
Members were urged to use every possible means for the propagation of the Gospel, to seek out members during these difficult times and bring relief to them in every way possible.