From lockdown videos in Britain and the US, herd immunity experiments in Sweden and deserted streets in Italy, our media has been full of the pandemic’s effects in the West. But what about Africa? We are reaching out beyond the usual places, so we can pray and help our brothers and sisters overseas.

Our request drew this response from the Rev Berthier Lainirina, an Anglican parish rector on the east coast of Madagascar who is also provincial secretary for the Anglican Church of the Indian Ocean. Mr Lainirina was in Sydney just 12 months ago to speak to Synod about ministry in Madagascar.

We asked him about the situation in his country and the impact of COVID-19 on people in the community and on churches.

Sydney Anglicans: What are things like on the ground right now? 

Berthier Lainirina: Thank you for thinking of us. We desperately need prayers and need God’s mercy.

Madagascar is passing through a very tough moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now nearly five months that the Government has declared a national “lockdown” and social distancing. However, the majority of the population are poor; they buy their food by the money they receive during their day work [day-to-day living]. Yet they can no longer do their daily business, therefore many have difficulty to find foods to eat during the day. Many are starving.

“Almost five months of locked churches has [had] a huge impact on the spiritual and economic life of the church.”

The pandemic has had a massive impact on the economic life of the country and Madagascar is now struggling economically. It also impacted our social life – for example, a social security problem has started [and] numbers of thefts and murderers increase every week.

Church locked is another big problem for clergy. Most of the churches in Madagascar pay their clergy out of Sunday’s weekly offerings. Since churches could not open for Sunday worship, and church members are financially struggling, so they could not afford to pay their pastors. Another issue is that there is no possibility of “online ministry” here, so Christians are currently missing pastoral care.

Before the COVID 19 pandemic, dioceses in Madagascar were already struggling structurally with poverty, illness, vulnerability, unemployment and famine. We can’t imagine how bad things are at this time of the pandemic. Almost five months of locked churches has a huge impact on the spiritual and economic life of the church.

Sydney Anglicans:  How can people here in Sydney be praying for people in Madagascar and other areas where the effects of COVID-19 are significant?

Berthier Lainirina:  

  • Pray that churches in Madagascar will remain encouraged, especially the pastors. 
  • Pray that Christians’ faith will not be weak because of church locked. We are still in lockdown, more than four months now and we never know when it will end. Pray for our country that this will not take the country down.

- Pray for the Church’s witness of Christ in this difficult time.

- Pray for the Archbishop James Wong, all bishops, pastors, the provincial secretaries and administrative staff of each diocese for their work, that they will be blessings for others.

- Pray that churches will remain trusting in Christ for their future.

- Pray that the crises will come to an end.

- Pray for church renewal and national revival.

Sydney Anglicans will continue to highlight other countries struggling with COVID-19. We urge prayer support and contributions to the Archbishop of Sydney’s Anglican Aid COVID-19 Relief Appeal. 

Anglican Aid is working with churches and other Christian partners in developing nations to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The COVID-19 Relief Appeal is raising funds to support handwashing and relieve hunger caused by lockdowns in the most vulnerable communities around the world. Details of the appeal are here.