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“Things are dire”: Archbishop of South America urges Christians to pray for region as Covid cases surpass 10 million

by Kelly Valencia
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The Anglican Archbishop of South America, the Most Rev Gregory Venables, is encouraging Christians to pray for the region as five out the ten countries with most coronavirus cases globally are South American.

British-born Archbishop Greg is head of the Anglican Church in South America and oversees more than 200 churches and clergy.

He told Premier that coronavirus has shaken the very foundations of Latin American society and prayer for wisdom and strength is needed.

“Pray that we will have wisdom in accompanying people through the next weeks [and] months. Because it's not going to go away quickly. And we've got to be [acting] very wisely."

The country that appears to be hardest hit is Brazil. Last week, the national death count reached 150,000, making it the second highest globally after the US.

Conservative Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been accused of failing to stop the effects of the pandemic by opposing lockdowns and other restrictive measures.

“There's a lot of illness and an incredible amount of insecurity. Most of the countries of Latin America are economically bankrupt, so people are living hand to mouth. They have nothing. It’s a very, very desperate situation” Venables added.

Latin America has also seen some of the longest lockdowns in the world, with Colombia and Argentina only lifting highly restrictive measures last month.

The Archbishop said that there seems to be no real answer to how to deal with the pandemic, as despite governments putting in place very strict rules, it hasn't seemed to stop the spread.

“In Latin America, people are used to having lived through military dictatorships and left-wing dictatorships over recent decades. People are used to not questioning and getting under that kind of instruction.” Venables believes that the measures didn’t work and with restrictions starting to relax, things are getting “desperately worse.”

Like in the UK, churches in Latin America have played a key role in helping those most affected by coronavirus. Archbishop Greg explained that besides running food and medicine banks, the Church´s role goes beyond that.  

“It's a case of being there for people and just keeping in contact, just talking, not having to have a religious dialogue…[Sometimes] all you can do is hold somebody's hand in the dark.”

He also believes the Church is learning from the coronavirus pandemic. He thinks it has caused it to be more present in the community.

“The whole point about the gospel is, it came for those who are outside, and I think this has sent the church out. I think that's the biggest plus of what's happening…we're not just looking in and trying to keep everything in order.”

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