In a bid to educate and emancipate the controversial members of the Apostolic religious communities, Union for Development of the Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe, or UDACIZA, has intensified its outreach program.
The organization’s project officer Camilious Machingura told RelZim.org that the program is already bearing fruits. “Although it is a mammoth task engaging them there are a number of successes, failures and challenges too,” he said. Machingura added that they are encouraging Vapostori to build proper housing structures with toilets as one such educative project.
Concerns have long been raised over forced marriages in the Apostolic sects, with girls as young as 13 being forced to get married. Consequently, these children drop out of school. This, coupled with polygamous behavior, has placed Vapostori at great risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, which is sexually transmitted.
Machingura cited their reluctance to go to hospitals to seek medication as a reason for many Apostolic communities seeing most of their members die from the diseases. A number of children have died due to preventable diseases. AIDS activists have long castigated some Apostolic Churches for this negligence.
Some members of the Apostolic communities are known for resisting government health programmes such as immunization. They believe it is unholy to take pills and injections. Some do not trust pills because they think that tablets are made of human brains. Some also think that people are killed at hospitals.
Apart from that, they do not want to take anything that is derived from herbs, but from the Spirit,” said Machingura. Last year, there was an international outcry when hundreds of children died from measles because their parents were not willing to have them immunized.
Expecting mothers are not allowed to deliver at hospitals with specialized care. They end up delivering at home, where, if complications occur, their chances of survival are low. According to experts, eight pregnant women die in Zimbabwe daily while giving birth, and Apostolic Churches contribute significantly to these avoidable deaths.
However, Machingura said that the conservative Churches more often embrace modern methods. Especially this becomes a practice of women and youths, despite the resistance from men, who are often the Church leaders.
Last May, the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) adopted a constitution making it mandatory for members to vaccinate and immunise their children.