Religious institutions offer support to the Covid-affected

Head of the Imamat Council of Mitchell’s Plain, secretary general (ICOMP), Skeik Maulana Sabrie Davids and Sheik Moegamad Amien Jardien.

As the country faces a second wave of Covid-19 infections the current lockdown level 3 has been extended until mid-February. Among other restrictions, this means that attending religious services is prohibited.

But religious leaders are offering counselling sessions to those who need it, especially those who have lost loved ones due to Covid-19.

The Amīr (head) of the Imāmat Council of Mitchell’s Plain (ICOMP) Moulana Sabrie Davids and and secretary general, Sheikh Moegamad Amien Jardien spoke to the Plainsman about their Covid-19 bereavement counselling services and how they are managing the mosque under adjusted lockdown level 3.

ICOMP is one of the sub-structures of the Muslim Judicial Council (SA). “We have to make sure the protection and the preservation of life is the most important of all,” said Mr Jardien.

They have seen a huge increase in funerals. “On one particular day, five hearses parked behind each other to use a certain Ghusl facility, a facility that was approved by the Department of Health to embalm and shroud Muslims,” said Mr Sabrie.

“We are people of faith, a certain calmness exists with religious leaders. If the leaders stress, the followers will stress, it’s essential for our community leaders to remain calm, rational, stable and compassionate,” said Mr Sabrie.

Under the current lockdown restrictions they are not hosting Friday sermons, weddings have had to be adjusted, with only family allowed to attend the ceremony. And the couple is encouraged to have other rituals at home, said Mr Jardien.

The Covid-19 bereavement counselling is dedicated to families of those who have passed on and the hope is to extend it to those with Covid-19 in hospitals as well as those who are affected and feel lonely because of isolation during this time.

“We need to give hope to others. Our concern is that it’s possible that emotions can open the door for people to turn away from Allah and we want to open the door for people to come closer to him,” he said.

For more information about an in-person or online meeting, contact Moulana Sabrie Davids on 084 844 0481, Moulana Ashraf Lamara on 084 503 8436 or Moulana Nazeem De Beer on 071 980 7815.

Catholic auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Cape Town, Sylvester David said the safety measures they had in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19, included sanitising, physical distancing, and the omission of rituals that involved the touching of hands, to name a few.

They have also limited occupancy in churches to no more than 30% of the seating capacity. “Although the state allowed for a certain number of people at funerals, we restricted numbers even more,” he said.

“During the partial lockdown periods people attended masses by booking. They were screened, had their contact details recorded and only then admitted into the church.”

There’s been a significant increase in deaths – and at this time many Covid-19 related deaths, he added.

“The collateral effect of the pandemic does take its toll on ministers. We cope through our spirituality – both personal and collective,” said Mr David.

“It is not easy to bury parishioners under any circumstances and to cope with the fact that many of the people cannot even be visited at crucial stages of their lives, are extremely difficult. However, they find that it is precisely in these situations that the fortitude and convictions of the faith come into play,” he said.

Some priests have tested positive for Covid-19 and several nuns had also been infected. “Some nuns have died from the disease. Their counselling is done at parish level with all the safety protocols being observed,” said Mr David.

Currently funerals can only be attended by no more than 50 people and they livestream their services.

“Inside of every crisis is an opportunity. The opportunity for us has been a sharper awareness of the need to care for those on the fringes of society. We want to assure all in our country of our support in prayer,” said Mr David.

Executive Director of the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), Stuart Diamond, said synagogues in the Western Cape had followed Covid-19 precautions to the strictest degree to ensure the safety of congregants.

He said synagogues were using a hybrid model of digital and in-person prayer services and learning practices to continue their communal work.

“The pandemic has hit both religious leaders and congregants hard. Congregants miss the social aspect of religious gatherings, and our religious leaders have needed to ensure unity, support and well-being for them,” he said.

During the first peak of the pandemic in South Africa, they saw higher-than-usual death tolls, but under the current peak, he said, they had seen many community members pass away.

The Cape Jewish community started a mental wellness helpline, and the Cape SAJBD sees this continuing this year.

“We certainly do our best to offer support to anyone in our community affected by Covid-19, and the Cape SAJBD connects many people to existing community support programmes, which we also boost on all the channels available to us,” said Mr Diamond.

For more information on their Mental Wellness Helpline, contact the Jewish Community Voluntary Mental Wellness Helpline on 087 822 0387 between 8am and 8pm.

For telephonic bereavement counselling, contact Nechama Cape Town Counselling for the Bereaved by email on or call 021 462 5520 or 066 081 3397 between 8:30am to 12:30pm.