This year’s Easter weekend has been different from all the others as it has been characterised by a subdued mood due to fears and restrictions emanating from the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic that has affected the way of life in the country and the whole world.
The usual sight of Christians holding Way of the Cross on various roads across the country that is conducted by Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican faithful was the missing ingredient during yesterday’s Good Friday.
There was no sign of people with a spring in their step carrying Bibles, vehicles carrying singing people; simply put, the mood befitted that of Martyr’s Day.
Evangelical Association of Malawi’s General Secretary Reverend Francis Mkandawire conceded that this year’s commemorations have been greatly disrupted by the Covid-19 threat.
“The limit on gatherings has discouraged many from attending services. The social distancing and the sanitation measures are new for most of us. We are aware that other churches have completely cancelled Easter services.
“While we value the importance of gathering together to worship our God, we do not want to be negligent of our responsibility to ensuring the safety of our people, let alone from Covid-19. We, as churches, will therefore work closely with Government organs responsible for coordinating efforts to fight the epidemic,” Mkandawire said.
A visit by Malawi News in various churches across the country established that most churches conducted more than a single service as a way of adhering to the limitation of not more than 100 people per gathering.
St Columba CCAP session clerk Godwin Ng’oma said this year’s Easter has less pomp and services have been affected due to limitations of congregates recommended to be in one place.
“This Easter as we know is a very different one normally our Easter holidays are met with pomp and prayer of deliverance and we meet in bigger numbers. This is the time when everyone says we are going to congregate together but this year because of the pandemic of Covid-19 we are restricting the number of people meeting to a 100.
“However, what is happening is that in the midst of the virus there are intense prayers in terms of praying for the deliverance from this pandemic so in terms of the spiritual life I can say that people are dedicating themselves to prayer… they are praying for the country. This year we are seeing prayer being united towards one goal. The goal of asking God to redeem us from this situation we are in,” he said.
Regina Manda, a Roman Catholic Church member at Mtima Oyera Parish in Lilongwe, told Malawi News that this year’s Easter season has come at a very trying time.
“We cannot just pray in the right way, befitting us Christians, it is really sad. This virus and disease is threatening the very tenets of life we exist for,” she said.
Up North in Mzuzu, congregants gathered in their respective churches to observe Good Friday while at other churches like St Augustine Catholic Parish, Way of the Cross was done just outside the church with congregants observing the one metre distance.
During this period in which Christians recall the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, congregations hold a procession of the Way of the cross on Good Friday, which is followed by prayers on Saturday and Sunday.
On Thursday, government, through the Special Ministerial Committee on Covid 19, announced the suspension of all church gatherings, bar operations, wedding receptions, public engagements as well hospitality activities.
However, the ban was frozen just for the Easter period, as long as the number of congregants was limited to a 100.
Reacting to the ban, Sinosi Simwaye who is Dean of Evangelical Lutheran Church of Malawi, Mzuzu Denary, said it is sad that the government is putting the Coronavirus first and God second.
He said they will continue to congregate because they believe God will hear their prayers and hence end the pandemic.
“It is sad that the government has decided to do it this way. What is sad is that God is being placed second in this fight. But on our part as a church, we shall continue congregating, even if it means dying. God will know that we died trusting him that he is the only healer of this pandemic,” he said.
Meanwhile, Malawi has now registered nine cases of Covid-19 and one death was recorded during the week.
Among measures that the Word Health Organisation is recommending for preventing the spread of Covid-19 are; regular hand washing with soap, social distancing, use of hand sanitiser and staying home.