The Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations have castigated church leaders who are calling on their congregants to stop using conventional medicines and pin all hope on “miracles”.
At a recent two-day conference organised by the National AIDS Council in Mutare, heads of denominations said people must follow doctors’ instructions and stop misinterpreting the place of miracles in religion and society.
NAC board member Reverend Lindani Dube, who is also general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, said: “We as church leaders do not condone pastors calling on their members to stop taking any medication prescribed by their doctors in the belief that they would have been miraculously healed.
“Churches must encourage people to adhere to medication prescribed by doctors instead of advocating for harmful religious practices which discourage the intake of medicine in the name of ‘faith’.
“While the Bible abounds in promises of healing, it remains God’s sole preserve to heal in his time and through means he sees fit.
“God cannot be manipulated by ascetic tendencies and overzealous emotions which are theologically inconsistent with sound biblical teaching and acceptable societal values.
“Miracles are part of God’s agenda in carrying out missions, but they must be within the confines of correct scriptural interpretation and ethics.
“Once one is put on medication by a competent medical practitioner, it’s up to him to confirm the miraculous intervention and advice appropriately with regards to the continuity or discontinuity of medication.
“Church leaders therefore must desist from encouraging members not to take medication, without professional advice, but rather to stand in solidarity with doctors in their God-given wisdom towards the support of the common good.”
This follows reports of people abandoning medication for chronic ailments after pastors “prayed and healed those with faith”.
“Healing schools” where people are told to build up their faith have also mushroomed.
A woman who recently lost a brother said she would sue a pastor who “forced” him to stop taking ARVs.
The woman said she was surprised to receive a phone call from her sister-in-law saying her brother had been hospitalised.
“I was surprised to find my brother unconscious and on life support. The doctor said he had meningitis, pneumonia and kidney failure. It came as a surprise to us as he had been on ARV treatment for five years and was fit.
“It was only then that his wife told me that they had both stopped taking medication after attending a healing school. My sister-in-law is now on second line ARVs but keeps having headaches,” she said.
Dr Owen Mugurungi, director of the Health and Child Care Ministry’s AIDS and TB Unit, said the majority of people who started anti-retroviral treatment in 2004 are still alive.
“We have over 90 percent of people initiated on ART in 2004 still doing well on medication today. These people were started when they were very ill and they have adhered to the regimens . . .
“We no longer have many cases of patients bed-ridden due to the success of the ART programme.
“We are therefore no longer relying on CD4 count as a measure of health but moving on to use the viral load which is World Health Organisation standard regulation of checking the amount of virus in the blood,” Dr Mugurungi said.
“With one adhering to medication correctly and consistently a client’s viral load will be undetectable with time. Undetectable meaning that the amount of virus in the blood is now too little to be picked up hence undetectable,” he explained.
The conference drew leaders from the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, the EFZ, and the Union for the Development of Apostolic and Zionist Churches in Zimbabwe.
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