Web and social media posts, along with a brand-new World Council of Churches (WCC) health-promoting handbook, will be potent communication tools.
“We must exercise the considerable influence and trust we enjoy as church leaders in a worldwide fellowship, and do everything we can to save lives and ease the burdens on health care workers. This is an opportunity for us as faith actors to encourage people to get vaccinated, counter misleading information and raise our voices in favour of immunization programmes,” says WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, who himself will be serving as a Vaccine Champion along with eight other church leaders presented below.
World Immunization Week is a yearly event organized by UNICEF, bringing together key health organizations and others, such as the WCC, to raise awareness on the benefits of immunization. Although the COVID-19 pandemic remains a major challenge, there are several other immunization issues to address.
The WCC team include the following church leaders, who also share their thoughts and reflections on their task and the current situation:
Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, Switzerland, WCC acting general secretary
“As COVID-19 vaccination programmes are being rolled out, religious leaders of all faiths play a critical role in sustaining public trust in health authorities and services, as well as in the approved vaccines themselves. As a Christian fellowship, it is our duty and moral obligation to publicly challenge rumours and myths and confront them with facts. While moral and ethical concerns also loom over vaccine access and distribution practices, we must take up responsibility and advocate for what is right from a medical, ethical and human rights perspective.”
Rev. Gloria Ulloa Alvarado, WCC president for Latin America and the Caribbean
“Vaccination is important,
Because people who receive the vaccine can approach their loved ones with more confidence, without fear of infecting them or being infected.
Because those who work in healthcare and education can do their work with their patients and students in a less stressful environment.
Because I understand that the COVID-19 vaccine helps protect the human body by creating an antibody-generating response.
Because human history has shown us the effectiveness of vaccination.
Because my mother Noemi, who is 94 years old, has already received two doses of the vaccine and has had no negative effects on her body, she has not had any type of discomfort and this has brought great peace of mind to our whole family.“
Archbishop emeritus Dr Anders Wejryd, Sweden, WCC president for Europe
“Do to others what you want them to do to you! And don’t do what you don’t want them to do to you! I don’t want to be infected by COVID-19 and I absolutely don’t want to be the one that brought the infection on to someone else. Therefore vaccination is simply about solidarity!
I am grateful for the first shot, which I got three weeks ago.
God has given us science and reason. Science and reason can be used for different ends. When vaccines have been developed and are shared, the resources God gives have been used for what God wants.”
Rev. Dr Fidon Mwombeki, general secretary, All Africa Conference of Churches
“COVID-19 is far from over and it continues to cause disruptions in the way communities and congregations conduct their activities and actions. The strict adherence to the guidelines in prevention and management has made life difficult and sometimes impossible to cope with.
As church leaders, as we continue to provide hope by promoting acts of solidarity, care and compassion that help mitigate the humanitarian impact of COVID-19 in our communities, we must use the opportunity and our influence to communicate factually, effectively and consistently using credible sources which provide accurate and life-saving information on COVID-19 prevention, management and control.
We have a long history of vaccinations saving millions of lives, and as such we should reject the conspiracy theories against scientific evidence and advocate for everyone to get vaccinated against the deadly COVID-19 virus, avoiding nationalistic tendencies which may isolate countries without many resources. This should be done through a coordinated approach to reach all who need it, as a matter of justice.”
Dr Jørgen Skov Sørensen, general secretary, Conference of European Churches
“The past year has been a year like no other. The COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on our lives in ways few had envisaged. While we kept a distance, the world still came closer.
The concerted efforts from scientists have brought the world efficient vaccines, which together with other measures can ensure healthy and safe societies in the world.
Immunization has begun in most countries. We see light at the end of the tunnel. I look forward to receiving my jab and cannot wait to hug my first grandchild, who was born at the height of the pandemic. I also look forward to worshipping in a crowded church again.
And I look forward to seeing a world working together towards secure vaccines for all, so it is possible for everyone to hug their family members and gather in their holy places. Until everyone is safe, no one is safe. Together we can reach that day.”
Jim Winkler, president and general secretary, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
“The National Council of Churches USA (NCCUSA) joins the World Council of Churches and UNICEF annual World Immunization Week, 24-30 April 2021. We support this effort to save lives and relieve the burden on healthcare facilities.
“I believe it is our faithful responsibility as followers of Jesus Christ to take the vaccine against COVID-19 so that we can be part of the global effort to overcome the pandemic.
As part of this effort, the NCCUSA has joined Faith4Vaccines, a multi-faith effort led by the NCCUSA, Union for Reform Judaism, National African American Clergy Network, Islamic Medical Association, Sojourners, and Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.
Our shared goals are to demonstrate religious communities’ trust in the vaccine, support houses of worship and faith communities to innovatively distribute vaccines, create space for multi-faith collaboration, and pave the way for global, equitable vaccine distribution.”
Pastor Peter Noteboom, general secretary, Canadian Council of Churches
“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?
The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:28-31 NIV)
In this pandemic, what better way to love the Creator God and to love your neighbour than to get vaccinated, advocate for vaccination for all, and contribute time and money to ensure everyone around the world has access to vaccines? The COVID-19 virus does not discriminate. Our response must also not discriminate. We must make vaccines available for everyone everywhere.”
Rev. James Bhagwan, general secretary, Pacific Conference of Churches
“If, as Christians, we are committed to loving God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and our neighbour as ourselves; if we proclaim life in abundance for all, our response to the COVID-19 pandemic must demonstrate this.
Our care as God's people for God's people means we must take every precaution to protect ourselves and others. We pray for the patients, their families and our frontline workers and for their health and safety. At the same time, we put our trust in the knowledge and skills with which God has gifted our health workers—doctors, nurses and health staff. And we follow their directions.
My wife and I received our first dose of the #astrazeneca vaccine to not only protect ourselves, but as our responsibility towards our family, coworkers and community. Whatever you think about or who you blame for COVID-19, or the motives and conspiracies etc, vaccination is important.
But willingness to be vaccinated is only part of the equation, it is important that there is vaccine equity and those communities and groups who urgently need vaccines have access to a full vaccination programme.”
Dr Mathews George Chunakara, general secretary, Christian Conference of Asia
"Although vaccines are one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions and their proven effectiveness has been widely recognized, millions of children in the world lack immunization coverage. One out of three under-immunized children in the world lives in South Asia. The dearth of adequate vaccines and lack of awareness and trust in vaccination are often hindering successful vaccination drives in the region. As COVID-19 vaccines begin to be rolled out gradually, there exist alarming disparities in access to them across the world. Access to vaccines as well as misinformation and mistrust remain a challenge even in the midst of the horrifying catastrophic impact of the pandemic. Considering the need for intensifying vaccinations to combat the pandemic, the Asian churches are now engaged in advocacy for an effective vaccination drive and also in urging members across Asia to promote health-seeking behaviour at the grassroots in order to make this world healthier."
For more information:
Invitation to media and communicators in the member churches and ecumenical partners to attend the press briefing Wednesday 28 April at 3pm CET.
Please, use the hashtag #VaccinesWork #HealthAndHealing #vaccinated