Tanzania: Faithful Urge Rethink On Mass Time Handshakes

By Pius Rugonzibwa, Tanzania Daily News
Mwanza — THE Ebola threat, which has been hanging dangerously over certain parts of the country like the proverbial Sword of Damocles, is causing unprecedented panic in the Lake Victoria Zone, with the Christian faithful shunning the customary mass time handshakes.

In fact the faithful have already contacted their respective clergies, asking for a special directive on whether it was necessary to shake hands during holy masses as a gesture of peace and love.

The Nyakato Parish Priest, Father Damian Nana, told his congregation at the Nundu Sub-Parish here yesterday that he had received calls from the faithful, asking for clarification on the matter.

He said a caller sent him a short text message, pleading for the intervention of the church in the wake of the pandemic’s threats, asking for the stoppage of the gesture in which congregations shake each other’s hands in emulation of Jesus Christ’s gesture of love to his followers.

“Father, would you please elaborate on what are we supposed to do when we are supposed to shake hands since we are told Ebola is fast spreading through skin contact like handshaking, among others?” read part of the short message.

Fr Nana told the congregation that he was short of words after reading the message but quickly remembered to give a reply to the caller on the alternative gestures of peace and love while in the church.

Insisting that peace and love must prevail under any circumstances despite such threats as Ebola, Fr Nana suggested that if the faithful think shaking hands is dangerous, then they could choose hugging and/or kissing although the two also involve skin contact.

It is emerging now that Ebola appears to have so many social effects than it was thought before, including the likelihood to affect traditional social interactions, including prayers.

For the last two weeks, Mwanza and Kagera regions have been drawn into an alert, following unconfirmed reports of Ebola patients in some parts of the regions.

That situation forced the Mwanza Regional Commissioner, Engineer Evarist Ndikilo to call a meeting last week at which he gave an assurance that the region was free of the deadly epidemic and that no one has been tested positive of the virus so far.

The clarification came after sections of the media circulated news on the possibility of one Sengerema resident Salome Richard (17) dying of Ebola.

The late Salome had been admitted to the Sengerema District Hospital and eventually died showing all clinical signs of the epidemic.

Eng Ndikilo said early interventions and medical examinations have not encountered any possibility of the patient dying of Ebola or any other deadly viral infection and that the family of the late Salome was still safe, which is not normal for other Ebola scenarios elsewhere.

Mwanza Regional Medical Officer (RMO) Dr Valentino Bangi told the ‘Daily News’ yesterday that the spread of the news on the presence of Ebola in Mwanza was unfortunate and should be ignored. “The late Salome died of chronic malaria, which produced signs like that we are told are found in Ebola patients but that doesn’t necessarily mean a patient showing such clinical symptoms has already contracted it,” he said. Dr Bangi insisted there was nothing to hide on the epidemic already killing more than 4,000 people in other parts of the continent, particularly West Africa. He said all protective measures and public education are maintained to make sure the region remains safe, calling on the people to wait for official expert clarifications when in doubt.

Categories: Church & Ministries

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