PNG Council of Churches declares support for covid vaccine rollout

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PNG Council of Churches ... guided by the theology of "Love for Neighbour" to reach out to others, and the "theology of liberation". Image: RNZ/AFP

RNZ Pacific

The Papua New Guinea Council of Churches (PNGCC) has declared its support for the covid-19 vaccination rollout, following a conference in Port Moresby.

Papua New Guinea recorded 72 new covid-19 cases on Thursday, increasing the total number of cases to 16,933 with 173 known deaths.

In a statement, the PNG Council of Churches said: “We pledge our complete support to assist the government of Papua New Guinea and local communities to address community concerns, to work with all partners to ensure that all people are reached and vaccinated consistently.

“We define ourselves as churches, living and working together for the common good of people and society, therefore we affirm our support for the covid-19 vaccination and declare our trust in the safety and efficacy of covid-19 vaccination as a lifesaving tool which protects human from severe sickness and death due to covid-19,” said the PNG Council of Churches in its statement issued on Friday.

“Our affirmation is guided by the theology of ‘Love for Neighbour’ to reach out to others and the ‘theology of liberation’ to reduce the suffering of our neighbours inflicted by the covid-19 pandemic.”

The PNG Council of Churches also said that most of PNG’s health workers, frontline workers, essential workers, people with underlying illnesses and the aged population were not turning up en-masse for vaccination despite being more at risk of dying from the virus.

The churches also noted that much misinformation was being circulated through the social media that was leading to public hesitancy over the vaccine, thereby endangering the lives of millions of people in PNG.

The churches also recognised the negative social and economic impact that covid-19 had caused in PNG, resulting in the loss of lives and livelihood of Papua New Guineans.

Group photograph of the participants of the PNGCC conference
A group photograph of the participants of the conference, themed “Am I my brother’s keeper?”, organised by the PNG Council of Churches which comprises seven mainline churches. Image: PNGCC

The church leaders also said that the PNGCC had thoroughly examined the covid-19 vaccination rollout from the Christian theological, cultural, social, academic, medical and political perspectives, and had specifically analysed the doubts and suspicions that were raised.

Solidarity, duty, safety, access and communication
Based on this knowledge as well as from the information provided by trusted medical experts, the PNGCC has decided to adopt the five principles of the covid-19 vaccination which are – Solidarity, Duty, Safety, Access and Communication:

Solidarity: The PNGCC strongly affirm global and national call and support for protecting humankind and protecting the people from serious illness and deaths from Covid-19 infection and that these protective measures fully confirm with Christian principles.

Duty: The PNGCC accepts that this is the duty of all persons who are eligible for immunization to join our nationwide ‘Sleeves Up Campaign’ to help stop Covid-19 in PNG to protect themselves and their loved ones from severe sickness and death. It is the duty of the government to provide critical health and social support to uphold the welfare of its citizens.

Safety: The PNGCC acknowledge, based on advice from credible, recognized and reputable medical experts, the safety and effectiveness of all covid-19 vaccines, and that countries with high immunisation rates are beginning to see a decline to almost zero of serious cases and deaths due to covid-19 infection; and that common side effects are not severe and normal.

Access: The PNGCC acknowledges that deadly diseases like Covid-19 can only be controlled and stopped by vaccinating most of the population, especially high-risk groups. It therefore appeals to all responsible departments, agencies and organizations to ensure that full access to covid-19 vaccine is provided to all Papua New Guineans especially the high-risk group in all provinces. The PNGCC calls on local communities and their leaders to work with respected Christian organisations to ensure adequate awareness, access and uptake of covid-19 vaccinations.

Communication: The PNGCC appeals to the media, communities, and key leaders to seek the correct information, and not to spread misinformation and rumours that can cause confusion among our communities and ultimately endanger the lives of millions of people. The PNGCC calls on the media to fully engage the national and international religious leaders and medical experts and institutions to address community concerns about covid-19 vaccinations.

The PNGCC is a Christian ecumenical council in Papua New Guinea, and its members comprise the Anglican Church of PNG, the Gutnius Lutheran Church (affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod), the Union Baptist, the Roman Catholic Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG, the United Church in PNG and the Solomon Islands and the Salvation Army.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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