On June 26, nearly 40 leaders from companion synod relationships across the United States and Tanzania gathered via Zoom to continue the discussion around the impacts of the coronavirus in Tanzania. What follows is an excerpt that contains observations from the ELCA’s regional representative in East Africa, Mr. Daudi Msseemmaa. A full summary of the meeting is available here
and includes commentary from ELCA medical missionaries as well as representatives from other ELCA synods.
Daudi is the regional representative for the ELCA and lives in Arusha with his family. He shared a presentation focusing on COVID-19 in the context of the ELCT, the ELCA, and the other natural disasters facing Tanzania:
- When the virus was first discovered, some churches took extreme precautions, including training of school and hospital staff, and posting lists of precautions that should be taken.
- Some dioceses stopped church services altogether, but most did not.
- Many followed the advice of the president and the need for faith over precaution.
- All dioceses adopted the use of hand washing stations, and some implemented outdoor seating, shorter worship services, and physical distancing.
- Overall, Sunday attendance, as well as giving, are down.
- ELCT radio ministry continues to be widely used as a way to worship and receive COVID-19 information.
- Many ELCT churches, hospitals, and schools are in financial crisis.
- COVID-19 struck at a time when many were facing flooding and hunger, which many churches worked locally to combat.
- A Twitter poll by a prominent East African journalist suggests most East Africans consider COVID-19 the least concerning threat when compared to floods and locusts.
- The health threats of COVID-19 are seen as secondary compared to the economic and environmental aspects of the virus.
- The economic effects of COVID-19 could last years, sending hundreds of thousands into poverty, including those who have worked their way into the middle class.
- ELCT members are also losing income due to lack of tourism, as well as the decrease in funds coming from dioceses.
- The dioceses across Tanzania have varying capacities to address the issues they are facing, so when looking at a path forward, the ELCT is focusing on equity.
Daudi closed by reminding companions, "There is a natural resource that is in abundance in Tanzania. It's hope." He continues to remain hopeful in the ways this virus will strengthen our companionship.