Among the Ten Commandments that God handed down to the children of Israel through Moses is one that says: “Thou shall not commit adultery.”
This has become one of the most prominent teachings in the Church today and its violation has attracted a severe backlash or, in extreme cases, ex-communication from the flock.
The lack of sexual discipline has been cited as the leading cause of HIV transmission and among those infected and affected are Christians.
A number of churches, however, hardly teach about the endemic that has defied medical science.
In Zimbabwe, however, Christians constitute a huge number of the population. Is it then not the time to break the silence in the church?
Can the church admit that the pandemic poses a serious threat to its own members without diluting God’s Word?
Over the years, teachings about HIV and Aids as well as the use of condoms on the pulpit have been considered a taboo and a way of promoting infidelity.
Most church leaders only mention Aids in passing, saying it is a disease for the morally wayward, although a significant number of innocent people, particularly in marriages, have been infected.
“The use of condoms is worldly and unholy. It can not be accepted in the Church because it would appear as if we are promoting adultery,” said a pastor of one of the oldest churches in Zimbabwe.
A Christian woman from Warren Park concurred and said preaching about the use of condoms in church would promote adultery.
“Sex is holy and encouraging people to use condom when they are indulging in pre-marital sexual relationships is like promoting apostasy in church. People should be chaste and abstinence is only the way to go,” she said.
In Tanzania, a protracted conflict has been simmering at Mount Kilimanjaro Diocese of the Anglican Church in Arusha after Bishop Simon Makundi had insisted on the use of condoms among church members as a way of protecting themselves against HIV.
The bishop was barred from preaching at Kaloleni St James Church and sometimes police had to be called to maintain peace during mass as some members were up in arms against him.
He has since taken the matter to the High Court.
Some people argue that ignoring the existence of Aids in the Church would have catastrophic consequences as many members will end up casualties.
Aids does not recognise religious affiliations and neither does it distinguish between the religious and non-religious.
The media has been awash with numerous cases of infidelity in church. In some of the cases, pastors were cited as the culprits and in some apostolic sects, women have been sexually abused under the guise of “healing”.
“It is high time the Church opens its eyes and acknowledge the existence of Aids in their midst. Some church goers are wolves in sheep’s skins. They pounce on other people’s wives. One cannot believe what is happening under the cover of darkness. The Church should atrive to save life and the transgressors should at least wear a condom so that they do not spread the diseases,” said Pardon Taodzera a social commentator.
Other people have the view that since the Church is frequented by different age groups, preaching about the use of condom to people of young age would be tantamount to promoting wayward behaviour in youths.
“The Church houses nine year olds or teenagers so the pastor cannot be heard preaching the gospel of wearing condoms or any other method of safe sex on the pulpit. There are people of different relations like in-laws or parents with their children, in addition the leader of the Church is a role model to the followers so hearing him speak about the use of condoms can promote promiscuity among the youths,” said Brenda Karibeti a journalism student in Harare.
“These should be discussed among peers at youth camps or in Sunday school depending on the age of people. It is like the debate of condom use in schools,” she added.
Members of women fellowships in some churches said they have since broken the silence and they are discussing issues relating to HIV and Aids openly and, in some cases, helping those affected.
“Gone are the days when talking about condom use was a taboo. In fact, we sometimes distribute condoms among ourselves. We are dying because of this disease yet people in church pretend to be more holy. We know that Aids is real and it kills. Why not open up and acknowledge its existence to save lives?” said a woman who identified herself as Mai Shava, a group leader of a women’s fellowship at a local church.
Some churches said they have started programmes to help their members who are living with HIV and Aids.
A bishop with one of the churches who requested anonymity said that their church acknowledged the existence of Aids hence they have expanded the opportunistic infection wards at their mission hospital.
“We have built wards which cater for the infected people. We have also donated clothing and food to home-based care givers so that they can look after the infected. At our clinics we provide free condoms and this will go a long way to alleviate the impact of Aids among our parishioners,” said the man of cloth.
Although some churches are actively helping those affected and infected, others have failed to rise to the challenge, shunning the subject altogether.