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'It's not Satanism': Zimbabwe church leaders preach vaccines – Associated Press

SEKE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Yvonne Binda stands in front of a church congregation, all in pristine white robes, and tells them not to believe what they’ve heard about COVID-19 vaccines.

“The vaccine is not linked to Satanism,” she says. The congregants, members of a Christian Apostolic church in the southern African nation of Zimbabwe, are unmoved. But when Binda, a vaccine campaigner and member of an Apostolic church herself, promises them soap, buckets and masks, there are enthusiastic shouts of “Amen!”

Apostolic groups that infuse traditional beliefs into a Pentecostal doctrine are among the most skeptical in Zimbabwe when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, with an already strong mistrust of modern medicine. Many followers put faith in prayer, holy water and anointed stones to ward off disease or cure illnesses.

The congregants Binda addressed in the rural area of Seke sang about being protected by the holy spirit, but have at least acknowledged soap and masks as a defense against the coronavirus. Binda is trying to convince them to also get vaccinated — and that’s a tough sell.

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Congregation leader Kudzanayi Mudzoki had to work hard to persuade his flock just to stay and listen to Binda speak about vaccines.

“They usually run away, some would hide in the bushes,” he said.

There has been little detailed research on Apostolic churches in Zimbabwe but UNICEF studies estimate it is the largest religious denomination with around 2.5 million followers in a country of 15 million. The conservative groups adhere to a doctrine demanding that followers avoid medicines and medical care and instead seek healing through their faith.

Conversely, Tawanda Mukwenga, another religious Zimbabwean, welcomed his vaccination as a means of allowing him to worship properly. Mukwenga recently attended Mass at the Roman Catholic cathedral in the capital, Harare, his first in-person Sunday Mass in 10 months after the pandemic closed churches and forced services online. Zimbabwe has reopened places of worship, though worshippers must be vaccinated to enter.

“Getting vaccinated has turned out to be a smart idea,” said Mukwenga, delighted to celebrate Mass at the cathedral again.

More than 80% of Zimbabweans identify as Christian, according to the national statistics agency, but the contrast in attitudes displayed by the Seke Apostolic members and Mukwenga means there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to convincing hesitant religious citizens to get vaccinated.

While mandates — a blunt no vaccine, no entrance rule — is the way to go for some, there’s a subtler approach for the Apostolic and other anti-vaccine Pentecostal groups, partly, but not only, because they are deeply suspicious of vaccines.

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Apostolic groups generally have no formal church premises and members, striking in the long white robes they wear to services, worship outdoors in open scrubland or hillsides, in locations widely spread across the country.

That makes gatherings much harder to police and mandates almost impossible to enforce.

Binda is one of nearly 1,000 members of various religious groups recruited by the Zimbabwean government and UNICEF to try gently changing attitudes toward vaccines from within their own churches.

“We have to cajole them,” Binda said of her fellow Apostolic churchgoers. “Bit by bit they finally accept.”

But it’s rarely a quick conversion.

“We are accepting that the Holy Spirit may not be enough to deal with the virus,” Seke Apostolic leader Mudzoki said. “We are seriously considering vaccines because others have done it. But our members have always been wary of injections.

“So for now we need soap, buckets, sanitizers and masks,” he said. “Those are the things that will help protect us.”

Churches have taken steps to address hesitancy in other parts of Africa. The United Methodist Church, based in the United States, plans to use a mass messaging platform to send text messages to the cellphones of around 32,000 followers in Ivory Coast, Congo, Liberia and Nigeria. The initial aim is to dispel disinformation.

“There’s quite a bit of messaging centered around reaffirming for people that the vaccine is safe, that it’s been tested,” said Ashley Gish of United Methodist Communications. “The ingredients are safe for use in humans and will not make you magnetic — that was a huge one that we heard from a lot of people.”

Gish said her church plans to send out more than 650,000 messages with a “pro-vaccine bias.” But the program will roll out over a few months in a process of “COVID sensitization” and the church is not demanding followers get the vaccine immediately, Gish said.

While slow and steady might be best in dealing with some religious hesitancy, the situation is urgent in Africa, which has the world’s lowest vaccination rates. Zimbabwe has fully vaccinated 15% of its population, much better than many other African nations but still way behind the U.S. and Europe.

So Binda and her fellow campaigners are adaptable if it means changing attitudes a little bit quicker.

One problem they’ve encountered is stigmatization. Some church members are willing to get vaccinated but don’t because they fear being ostracized by peers and leaders. The phenomenon led to campaigners advising the government not to bring mobile clinics to secluded Apostolic groups like the one in Seke, fearing that a public show of vaccinations would do more harm than good.

Instead, vaccine campaigners who normally advocate for openness sometimes encourage secrecy.

Alexander Chipfunde, an Apostolic member and vaccine campaigner who works alongside Binda, told the Seke congregants there was a way to avoid stigmatization.

“Go to the hospital, get vaccinated and keep quiet about it,” he said to them. “It’s your secret.”

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Associated Press writer Holly Meyer in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.

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Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

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'I was born a fighter': the champion boxer changing young lives in Zimbabwe – NewsDay

Beneath a corrugated iron roof in the Harare suburb of Mbare, a group of boys darts back and forth across a smooth concrete floor, firing a series of rapid punches into the air.

A wiry older man, dressed in low-slung tracksuit bottoms and flip-flops, watches their moves, encouraging them to “Jab! Jab! Jab!”.

It’s a long way from a glamorous black-tie occasion in Glasgow in January 1998, when Arifonso Zvenyika beat Scotland’s Paul Weir to take the Commonwealth flyweight title for Zimbabwe.

Young boxers training at the Mosquito school. They lack gloves, headgear and punchbags, but levels of enthusiasm remain high. Photograph: Nichole Sobecki/VII

Nicknamed “Mosquito” – reflecting his 50kg fighting weight and his deadly skills – Zvenyika is one of the country’s most successful boxers.

However, there is little to show for those early triumphs. Now 45, Zvenyika lives hand to mouth, like so many others in a country where up to 90% of working-age adults are not formally employed.

When he’s not struggling to put food on the table for his own family, he trains young people for nothing at the Mosquito Boxing School of Excellence.

“I grew up without anything – even now I don’t have anything, but I can share boxing with less privileged children,” says Zvenyika, who is proud to have been born and raised in Mbare.

“The champions always come from the ghetto,” he says.

Three times a week, up to 20 young people – aged from eight to their early 20s – gather for fitness training and to develop their technical skills.

Children playing in Mbare, Harare’s first high-density suburb, which was established in 1907. Today the buildings are dilapidated and overcrowded. Photograph: Nichole Sobecki/VII

Zvenyika says that he particularly focuses on boys and young men who struggle to remain in school and spend time on the streets.

“Some of the kids are totally poor and not even going to school. Some draw back from training as they don’t have shoes,” says Zvenyika.

One of the boys, 16-year-old Noel Sunday, says: “Both my parents are unemployed. I only did four years of school. I haven’t done my O-levels.”

A chalkboard in the gym reminds the young boxers to “Go hard or go home” and lists 10 rules. Eating, smoking and even laughing and jokes during sessions are prohibited.

“Boxing not only teaches discipline, but also positive values. It’s a low-cost, high-impact sport,” says David Mutambara, a former chair of Zimbabwe’s Sports and Recreation Commission.

“But there is a scarcity of resources in this country. We get people who have natural, raw talent. The skills development needed to polish that raw talent is lacking.”

Zvenyika is reliant on others to provide training space, and is constantly on the hunt for more equipment. The school is short of gloves, pads, punchbags and headgear.

The rest of the time he spends looking for work.

“I’m shy to say it, but I can’t afford to feed my family properly,” he says. “We eat bread without butter, we drink tea without milk.”

A few miles from the centre of Harare, Mbare is chaotic and densely populated. It’s a first stop for arrivals to the capital who come looking for work.

“My family makes money running around the marketplace and helping to carry people’s luggage,” says Tatenda Kachepa, 22, who has trained with Zvenyika for five years and is one of the club’s star boxers.

The pandemic pushed many people already struggling to earn a living into desperation.

“We are now 15 people living together at my father’s place,” says Kachepa, who is still trying to complete his schooling. “During Covid, we haven’t made any money. It’s been a dog-eat-dog situation.”

Substance abuse has become endemic in Harare’s low income areas. Illicit alcohol, marijuana and methamphetamine – better known as crystal meth or by its street name mutoriro – are all popular among young people.

“I’ve been there myself,” says Zvenyika. “It hurts me to see these young kids doping. I’m trying to find ways to stop them.”

Zvenyika’s story is a familiar one – from rags to riches, followed by a slide into bad choices and prison.

“My mother tried her best, but she didn’t have money to send me to school,” says Zvenyika, who turned professional at 17. “I took up boxing as something to resolve my pain and calm me down.”

After his talent took him to Zambia and Australia, as well as to Scotland, Zvenyika crashed back down to a very different reality.

Accused by a neighbour of stealing a radio – Zvenyika insists he was framed – in 2000, the boxing champion was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

A young boxer in training at the Mosquito Boxing School of Excellence in Harare. Former Commonwealth flyweight champion Arifonso Zvenyika wants to nurture Zimbabwe’s future champions. Photograph: Nichole Sobecki/VII

Zvenyika’s imprisonment – and a stroke while in jail – effectively ended his professional career.

“I’ve been in prison, in hospital, in a hooligan’s cell. I don’t want others to fall into that pit,” says Zvenyika. “I’m trying to move them to be good people.”

And Mbare’s younger generation has sporting potential: “People paint a bad picture of Mbare, but it’s a talent hub. Young guys can get into bad things, but training keeps them busy.”

Lockdowns closed the club for much of the past 18 months, but as of last month Zvenyika has welcomed back his students.

He is determined to keep the Mosquito boxing school open, despite the challenges.

“I was born a fighter and I’ll die a fighter,” he says. “Boxing might leave me, but I’ll never leave boxing.” – The Guardian

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Patrick Vieira frustrated after Crystal Palace throw away win against Arsenal – The Zimbabwe Mail

Patrick Vieira



London – Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira was disappointed after a last-gasp equaliser from substitute Alexandre Lacazette denied them a win against his former club Arsenal in a pulsating Premier League clash on Monday.

Having fallen behind to an early Pierre-Emmerick Aubameyang goal, Palace stormed back through Christian Benteke and Odsonne Edouard before Lacazette struck with the last kick of the game.

Vieira, who won three league titles and four FA cups with Arsenal as a player, said Palace needed to stop conceding late goals in order to turn draws into wins.

“It was so close but we have been saying that a little bit too often,” he told Sky Sports. “We have to learn from the games we played previously. I am really disappointed because the way the team came back in the second half, they deserved to win.

“I am frustrated for them, they were brave and showed character. We have to put our sleeves up and put our bodies on the line. We were really unlucky today, it is the way it is but I believe there is more to come.


“The players were really frustrated because we threw away two points. To concede a goal like that is really difficult to accept but these games will make us stronger.”

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta criticised his players for switching off after taking the lead.

“We started the game very well but after the goal we didn’t manage it enough,” he told the BBC. “We didn’t have composure or control. The game was stretched. You have uncertainty, you have to defend deep.

“We gave the ball away two times for the two goals. It (the dip in performance) was for a long period which is worrying. We gave cheap goals away.

“The most positive thing is we kept going. They kept believing until the end and that’s how we managed to get a point.”

Reuters


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Jamie Carragher: Man United need a better manager – Futaa

Manchester United, according to former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, need a “better manager” to consistently fight for silverware.

Despite spending heavily in the summer transfer window on Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho, and Cristiano Ronaldo, the Red Devils have only picked up one point from their previous three Premier League games, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer being blamed.

Despite the fact that United have no plans to remove Ole Gunnar Solskjaer despite the club’s poor form, Carragher believes that change is necessary if the Red Devils are to have a chance at Premier League glory.

Speaking to Sky Sports News, Carragher said: “You can’t play five attacking players, you can’t. Pogba’s got to come out of central midfield. He’s playing there and it comes back to the Ronaldo signing.

“As soon as Ronaldo comes in, Pogba has to play center midfield to fit all the players in. I’m not saying (Pogba) should be out of the team, but he’s not a center midfield in a United shirt.

“What does Ole do? What’s your idea? I don’t see it in terms of a plan. If you’re going to press, everyone presses. Are they a high pressing team? Not really, not with Ronaldo in the team. This (lack of intensity) wouldn’t be accepted with a Pep or Klopp or Tuchel team. It’s both (a manager and a player’s problem).

“Ole will not win a league title or a Champions League at Manchester United. Ole hasn’t got the experience. This team is a good team, a great collection of individuals. Manchester United need to have a better manager, they need a manager who can compete with other big teams in the league.”

Man United are presently in sixth place in the Premier League table and will look to get back on track in the Champions League against Atalanta BC on Wednesday.

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