ROMAN Catholic youths across the country have been encouraged to go on a fast of WhatsApp for 40 days during the Lenten season.
During the Lent season, Catholics relive the experiences that Jesus Christ went through before and after his crucifixion, right up to resurrection.
It therefore leads into and encompasses the Easter holiday.
This year, the period starts from March 1 and ends on April 15.
It is against this background that Tendai Karombo, a representative of youths in the Roman Catholic Church in Zimbabwe, implored youths to abstain from using the free messaging application which has taken smart-phone uses, mainly the youths, by storm.
Speaking on a pre-recorded video during the launch of the 2017 Roman Catholic Church Lenten DVD in Harare last week, Karombo said this was an opportunity for youths to show their commitment.
“Lenten season is that time when we journey together with Jesus, the passion, His crucifixion and His resurrection that is the moment we show Christ our allegiance to Him.
“But as Catholic youths, the concept of fasting is something which is not clear to us. However we do fast. Those who fast mainly fast food following the dictates of their parents but this coming Lenten season we will try and fast WhatsApp. We have never done it but I want to believe that we can do it,” Karombo said.
Concurring with Karombo, Father Reki Mashayamombe from Seke Rural parish said abstaining from WhatsApp as a form of fasting is a prudent idea because most of the youths are spending their time on the platform.
“If they abstain they will concentrate on God during the Lenten season and also it shows an act of sacrifice,” he said.
According to an online source – fin24.com – WhatsApp chief executive Jan Koum was reported to have confirmed that the application had 700 million users by 2015.
Said Karombo, “I must admit that not many of us fast due to various reasons that range from school commitments and peer pressure. But we are slowly but surely getting there,” she said. She added that young people in the Catholic Church are showing interest in participating in church activities.
“We had elders participating most in Lent activities such as alms-giving and fasting. But for the past two years youths have become more active to the extent that even our Lenten campaigns are becoming overwhelming.
“This is because of the teachings we are getting from elderly people in the church. We understand that we are the church of today and the church of tomorrow, hence we also have to be active in campaigns such as the Lenten season,” she said.
Asked about the significance of fasting WhatsApp, Zimbabwe Catholics Bishops Conference (ZCBC) general secretary, Father Frederick Chiromba said it may be the choice of particular individuals depending on how they perceive and use WhatsApp.
He said Lent prepares the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, alms-giving, atonement, and self-denial.
“Lent is a season for prayer, fasting and alms-giving. Individuals may choose specific forms of fasting. I have not heard about Catholic youths choosing to collectively abstain from WhatsApp this Lent. But it may be the choice of particular individuals depending on how they perceive and use WhatsApp,” said Father Chiromba.
He added, “Under normal circumstances platforms such as WhatsApp can be considered neutral, neither good nor bad as the qualification comes with the usage.
“The youths would be correct if their current perception and usage of WhatsApp is bad and needs to be reformed. Yes, fasting can take the form of abstention but beyond that we are also encouraged to revive good Christian practices where we may have lapsed,” he said.
Father Chiromba revealed that the major highlight of Lent in Zimbabwe, as in the universal church, is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent; and the Lent exercises of prayer, fasting and alms-giving.
“This year we can also expect to see Christians reciting and following the way of the cross in churches and in the open, individually and collectively. Many will pay more attention to their spiritual exercises and draw closer to Christ and His church during this season.
“Lent is especially exciting because of what it precedes and leads to, Palm Sunday, which marks the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, followed by the Easter Triduum, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday,” he explained.
Lent is a period of reflection. lt is observed in the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, and Roman Catholic churches.
Jesus Christ spent 40 days and 40 nights alone in the desert as Satan tempted him.