A leading Christian charity has said that the financial impact of Covid-19 on churches across poorer parts of the world is causing many pastors to face starvation.
Open Doors UK and Ireland says that the virus has caused a drastic reduction in regular tithing, decimating the income of pastors and leaving them with little money for food.
“Normally, when Christians suffer the church is where they turn to for help," said Open Doors’ Asia Communications Director Jan Vermeer said. “But with COVID-19, the church pastors can barely look after their own families never mind the streams of people who come knocking on their doors for help."
Vermeer added: “Everywhere we turn we’re seeing the same dire situation. Pastors whose income is based solely on giving from members of the church don’t have anything to eat.”
Pastor Joel from India told the charity that his situation had become desperate. "The church has had to be closed, leaving us with no support or any source of provision," he explained. "As a family we cried unto God for his help and provision.”
Another ministry worker, Jyothi, said: “I am involved in pastoral ministry, and due to the lockdown, we are unable to continue with ministry or any church activities.
“We are left with no source of income and are unable to meet the family needs, there are even no menial jobs to earn money.
“There were various relief distributions carried out by the local administration but we were not given priority and were ignored for being Christians.”
Churches in sub-Saharan Africa have also been adversely affected by the virus, according to Open Doors' spokesperson for the region, Jo Newhouse. "Because of sharply reduced income, churches have been unable to pay pastors and other church workers,” she explained.
Pastor Adane, a minister in rural Ethiopia for 20 years, said he has experienced this first-hand during the coronavirus crisis.
“Because of Covid-19, the church is in great trouble,” he said.
“While churches were closed as part of the government lockdown, nobody could come to church. We had no income to pay the pastors and evangelists.
“Before, there were people who helped support ministry workers, but now they have stopped.
“The church used to have many streams of income but now it has all stopped.”
In response to the pressing needs of many Christians across the globe, Open Doors has provided emergency relief to 163,000 believers since the Covid-19 pandemic began.