The Evangelical Church through mischief one of the most painful moments in its history in Nicaragua. At least 44 pastors and evangelists have died between April 12 and June 15 in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a detailed record by the Nicaraguan Evangelical Alliance, which recognizes that they are experiencing very delicate moments.
Mauricio Fonseca, president of the Nicaraguan Evangelical Alliance, explained to LA PRENSA that “we have a preliminary list, and we cannot assure that they died from Covid-19, but we do at this time of the pandemic.”
“There are also pastoral families who are recovering in their homes, as is the case in Matagalpa and Managua,” said Fonseca, who noted that a large majority of approximately 16,200 temples they represent are closed. “But we have quadrupled the churches from our homes,” he explained.
In recent weeks the main churches in the country have transferred their services to social networks and there is still no precise date when they will reopen, at a time when the coronavirus has entered its phase of greatest expansion in Nicaragua.
Fonseca clarified that, as a representative organization, they cannot impose the closure of churches that may still be open, “but rather make suggestions, and this is what we have been doing according to the scientific guidelines of PAHO, WHO, and the Ministry.”
“It is the denominations that in some cases guide, according to the type of organizational government and the fulfillment of the guidelines will depend on each pastor,” he said.
He also mentioned that medical suggestions provided by unconventional naturopathic specialists are being downloaded to the member churches. “Also types of tea, and to make inhalations with eucalyptus and cypress three times a day, also guava leaf tea sweetened with honey three times a day, also dandelion with chamomile three times a day. The latest is gargling salt water three times a day, whether or not you are infected with the virus, ”he said.
The names of the pastors who died since April and to date were sent to the Evangelical Alliances of Latin America in Argentina, made up of 22 countries. The letter reads that the Alliance, together with the partner churches, have created a 24-7 prayer platform to ask for strength from pastoral families, as well as channeling humanitarian aid for affected families.
“We ask the eternal Jesus of Nazareth, that just as the virus came, he should eliminate it completely from all brother countries affected by this pandemic. We thank God for several pastoral families that have fully recovered, “the letter read.
In the list, held by LA PRENSA, it is observed that by department, Managua has the highest number of deceased pastors with about 25; Matagalpa follows with three; Masaya with two; Chinandega with two; Lion with three; Boaco with two; Then there is at least one death of an evangelical leader in Puerto Cabezas, Siuna, Estelí, Jinotega, Carazo and San Pedro del Norte.
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Since April 7, the World Health Organization issued recommendations for religious leaders and confessional communities in the context of the pandemic. The WHO called religious leaders “the primary source of support, comfort, guidance and direct delivery of health care and social services” amid the sudden loss of loved ones.
“They can also disclose health information to protect their co-religionists and the community at large, as it is more likely to be accepted in preference to that from another source. In addition, they are in a position to provide pastoral and spiritual support during public health emergencies and other health problems and stand as spokespersons for the needs of vulnerable population groups, “said the WHO.
He also stressed that religious institutions can “prevent and lessen fears and stigmatization, reassure their faithful and promote healthy practices.”
In fact, an update from the United States Government Center for Disease Control released this week found that there is a very high risk of Covid-19 infection in closed spaces, “such as offices, places for religious services, movie theaters, or theaters.”
For churches that maintain face-to-face religious services
In its guidance, the WHO stated that in the event that churches are unable to carry out their religious services virtually, it advised that members should keep a distance of not less than one meter, although research subsequent to the WHO recommendations in April indicates that Due to the ease of spreading the virus through droplets, a distance of more than two meters is recommended.
“Covid-19 is spread by respiratory droplets that form when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or speaks. Those droplets can fall on or be inspired by people nearby. Religious institutions and faith-based organizations can help maintain a safe distance between people (“physical distance”), “said the WHO.
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The WHO, however, suggested discouraging religious meetings that are not needed in person and transferring them to digital platforms, on television or radio. But if a service is organized, it is recommended to “weigh the convenience of it being outdoors. If this is not possible, ensure that the closed room is well ventilated ”.
It is also recommended to regulate the number and circulation of people entering, attending and leaving worship spaces in order to achieve a safe distance at all times. Low-attendance meetings are preferred, the WHO said.
“Meetings with little attendance are preferred. Religious groups and leaders should weigh the convenience of performing many services with few people instead of bringing together many people, “he said.
The WHO also advises religious leaders “to designate a room or area where a person can be isolated if they become ill or begin to show symptoms.”
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Not touch each other
Given the customs of greetings in churches, the WHO recommends that people who attend religious services do not touch. “The respiratory droplets that contain the causal coronavirus can be deposited in the hands of a person and pass to others through physical contact,” he warns.
For this, the WHO urges religious leaders “to devise new forms of greeting among the community that reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission”, among which it suggests “substituting hugs, kisses and handshakes for a bow, the sign of the peace or a greeting in sign language from the prescribed physical distance. ”
“Instead of handshakes or other forms of physical contact, welcome people who come to places of worship with kind words and smiles.
Do not touch or kiss objects of the Church
The World Health Organization also recommended that parishioners or church members avoid “touching or kissing objects of worship or devotion that the community is accustomed to handling collectively.”
“The virus that causes Covid-19 can persist on these objects for hours or days. Religious leaders and groups have to protect their faithful from infection by avoiding practices that involve touching or kissing these objects, “he explained.
In fact, the US Center for Disease Control has recommended that religious organizations at least once a day push for disinfection of frequently touched surfaces or objects. Cleaning should encompass “objects and surfaces that are not normally cleaned on a daily basis, for example, door knobs, light switches, and countertops. Clean with the commonly used cleaners. Use all cleaning products according to the instructions on the label. ”
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If you are sick do not go to church
In addition, the WHO urged religious leaders to encourage parishioners to practice hygiene when temples are reopened. To do this, churches must create conditions so that people can wash their hands before and after the liturgy, means to wash their feet in places where the faithful enter the steps; or alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 70% alcohol) at the entrance and in the worship space.
He also recommends that disposable facial tissues and trash cans with lids be placed within reach for disposal. Also, the faithful should carry a mat to place on the mat in daily prayers.
“Convince the faithful to abstain from attending liturgies if they have any symptoms of Covid-19 or if in recent days they have visited an area where there is community spread of this disease,” says the WHO.
Likewise, religious leaders are advised to put up very graphic posters and notices that promote physical distance, clean hands and precautions when coughing or sneezing. “
Use of three-layer masks
In an update of recommendations, the WHO on June 5 recommended the widespread use of masks, mainly in public places, where there is a risk of contagion. However, he clarified that the masks “by themselves do not protect from the Covid-19 but are one more preventive measure along with social distancing, hand washing and not touching the face.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that wearing masks “does not replace physical distancing, hand hygiene and other public health measures.”
What should the masks be like? “We recommend three layers to manufacture them: the interior must be an absorbent material such as cotton, an intermediate layer of a non-woven material such as polypropylene, which is the filter, and an outer layer of a non-absorbent material such as polyester,” he said at the time. María VanKekhove at the press conference where Tedros announced the updated guide.
The numbers in Nicaragua
In Nicaragua, so far the Ministry of Health reports 1,661 cases, of which 64 have lost their lives and another 1,238 have recovered. However, independent figures from the Citizen Observatory indicate that in Nicaragua, 4,971 suspected cases of Covid-19 have been reported as of June 10 in all the autonomous regions and departments.
Managua (2,323), Matagalpa (475), Masaya (467), León (322), Chinandega (247), Granada (159) and Estelí (150) are the most affected departments or regions. 1,398 deaths are recorded. These figures of the Observatory do not include those of the Minsa.
In addition to the evangelical churches, the organizations of Public Accountants and Lawyers also report a total of 84 dead as a whole last week in the context of the pandemic, which arrived in Nicaragua at the end of March this year.
The Nicaraguan Public School of Public Accountants declared itself in permanent mourning after reporting the death of 15 guild members and 16 relatives of members of the school. Meanwhile, the National Union of Lawyers and Notaries of Nicaragua reported 53 deaths until June 10.