Lome – Bishops in Togo on Saturday condemned a recent decision by the government to close places of worship after a surge in Covid-19 cases.
Last week the small West African nation extended a health state of emergency for 12 months and ordered the closing of churches and mosques for one month in the highly religious country.
The archbishop of Lome, the capital, had obtained a one-week exemption for “important religious ceremonies”.
But on Saturday, the Conference of Bishops of Togo said the closure of places of worship showed an approach “that is exclusively biomedical and ignores (the pandemic’s) psychological, anthropological, social and spiritual reality”.
“The strategy deployed to fight this sanitary crisis must be respectful of people’s dignity, freedom and fundamental rights,” it continued, calling for more awareness campaigns as well as “consented vaccination”.
The religious leaders also described the government’s decision to impose a vaccination pass to access certain public buildings as “coercive”.
“Do these (measures) not constitute grave violations of citizens’ basic rights?” it asked.
Togo has recorded 25,083 coronavirus cases including 219 deaths, though the true figure is likely higher given the low testing rates.
The country of eight million has so far received around 1.6 million doses of vaccines.
Due to the recent surge in cases, the government has banned weddings and funerals as well as cultural, sporting and political events for one month.
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