Peter Matika, Senior Reporter
A CHURCH founded by Malawian Prophet Shepherd Bushiri, Enlightened Christian Gathering church (ECG) in Zimbabwe, has come under fire from HIV and Aids and child activists after it exposed a child living with HIV, by posting a picture of him on their Facebook page, claiming to have healed the minor of the disease.
So daring was the church that it even took a jab at science, saying that through the power of God, HIV had been eliminated, through faith.
Some human and child rights organisations have since condemned the church, saying it was a reckless, negligent act, solely and pitiable aimed at luring congregants to the church. The pictures, with the boy carrying an HIV self testing kit, were posted on 9 July this year under the caption:
“Thulani Dube* (not real name) since birth the young boy was born HIV positive but today when Apostle declared healing he is now HIV negative,” read the caption.
The church also posted another picture of a man whom it claimed to have been living with HIV for the past 11 years:
“…Indeed our God is a specialist for impossibilities, where science says no, God says yes; where man says it can’t, our great physician shows himself up expressing his great love and power and embarrassing his people with mighty miracles. A man being diagnosed with HIV 11 years ago has lived all these years positive but by the move of God and the touch of God, the tables have turned for him.
“He tested once again and in astonishment his results came out negative. Doctors and nurses came up front overwhelmed by the power of God that embarrassed the word of science that says ‘HIV cannot be cured’. God of Major 1 is indeed not a man that should lie, when he says he is Jehovah Rapha, the great physician,” read the caption.
Contacted for comment, the church professed ignorance, referring all questions to its headquarters in Pretoria, South Africa.
“It’s best you seek comment from head office in Pretoria. You may speak to the director, Apostle Mishech. I don’t have his direct contacts, you may use the general office number your paper has used before,” said one Pastor Nyathi from the church.
Childline Zimbabwe said it was deplorable for the church to post such pictures without the consent of the child or his guardians.
“At the moment, we have not seen the page neither have we verified if the page actually belongs to the church in question or if the incident is real since we also have fake news going around a lot.
“However, we have noted with concern similar trends online, where images of children are posted online either reporting violence or sharing anything the child had done. This is done by parents, guardians, teachers, other children or neighbours who record or capture something and share without the consent of the child involved.
“This shows our limited understanding of consent and online abuse. When a child’s identity is associated with a certain image or video online that child will have to live with the trauma of being associated with that incident till they become an adult and this can have serious negative effects on the child,” said Childline Zimbabwe communications and documentation officer Miss Daphne Jena.
She said it was imperative for adults, organisations and or guardians to protect children from such cases.
“It is actually the role of adults and to ensure that the privacy of a child is protected instead of compromising a child’s privacy in the name of sharing information or jokes. For some of us who grew up before the Internet, we can ask ourselves how many pictures were taken of us as children that we are not proud of sharing?” added Miss Jena.
A lawyer from a human rights organisation in Bulawayo said the church should be held accountable for its negligence and that as a custodian of the people it had no right to display or publish such pictures.
“It is disappointing to note that a church could have done such, all in the name of luring congregants. They are trusted with protecting people yet instead it is the one entity that has gone against the value of upholding people’s rights. It is just appalling and they ought to be brought to book,” said the lawyer requesting anonymity.