Māori health endangered by anti-vax church leaders

Thursday, October 14th, 2021

  • A health leader has blasted anti-vax church leaders for spreading harmful messages.

Māori and Pacific health executive director Hector Matthews made his views clear at a hui discussing Māori vaccination efforts.

The hui in Ōtautahi (Christchurch) included Māori health agencies, the Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare and other government officials on Tuesday.

Matthews said some mainstream churches were causing problems in trying to get Māori vaccinated.

“The Brian Tamaki crowd and his whānau who walk around saying God’s going to protect you are a real problem for us.”

Tamaki is sending a “very dangerous message” that could lead to people dying or ending up in intensive care units, Matthews said. People in high profile leadership positions – like anti-vax church leaders – who are spreading those messages made it “really hard” for providers to get vaccinations to those congregations.

“These are whānau that need our help,” he said

Matthews says he is “deeply concerned” rates of vaccination in Māori and Pasifika communities was being hindered by misinformation that was spread on social media and via faith-based groups.

“This is the 21st century, and we live in the age of reason and of science …You can have an opinion about lots of things, but you can’t have an opinion about this virus,” he told Stuff media.

To illustrate his point, he said if a pilot of a plane told passengers landing in Wellington seemed unsafe, they wouldn’t question the pilot’s judgement. For the same reason, people shouldn’t be questioning the expertise and advice provided by scientists and health experts.

“We should be supporting them to keep our communities safe,” he stressed.

He told the hui “we need to front up to misinformation”.

People who did not speak out when they heard untruths were implicit in misinformation continuing, he pointed out.

He suggested a gentle approach is needed with people who are victims of misinformation.

“This is not new. We have to clear the fog for a lot of whānau.”

If treated with mana, and spoken to with “dignity and humility”, most peoplem would come around to protecting their whānau, he said.

Getting everyone vaccinated isn’t about taking away people’s right to choose, he said.

People were entitled to make individual decisions, “but individual decisions when it comes to infectious disease affect all of us”.

“Let’s protect our community and protect our whakapapa,” he urged.


Sadly, some church leaders in Aotearoa/New Zealand – especially those discipling Maori and Pacific Islanders in fundamentalist Protestant Churches – like Destiny Church, in Auckland – are disuuading their members from getting vaccinated against COVID and DELTA vairants in the recent pandemic affecting this country. They promote the idea that their members are safe without vaccination against the virus because of their faith – a dangerous and misleading understanding of God and Creation.

The Leader of Destiny Church, ‘Bishop’ Brian Tamaki, has led protests in Auckland which defied the current Level 3 Lockdown regulations, rendering him and his followers liable to public prosecution.

Mr. Tamaki, himself, is facing court proceedings on this issue, while claiming that he and his followers are just exercising their common human right to protest against a government directive urging everyone to get vaccinatied – except those (a minimal number of people) whose health might contra-indicate its use.

What Mr. Tamaki and his fellow fundamentalists seem not to understand is that, by refusing vaccination, he and his following are risking not only their own safety, but also the safety of anyone else who comes into close contact with them. The viruses involved here are proven to be highly contagious, and many protesters against vaccination around the world – especially in The United States of America – have suffered the ultimate penalty for their protest by catching the virus and, in some cases, suffering death for their beliefs.

Top Religious Leaders, including Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, have urged everyone (except the seriously compromised because of health reasons) to get vaccinated, in order to protect the majority population of the world from being infected.This, as Pope Francis, proclaimed, is an act of love for one another, which is at the heart of the Christian Gospel.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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