SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Faith leaders across Missouri are calling for congregations to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Over 200 pastors and ministers in Missouri signed a statement which states that they hope Christians will get vaccinated as a way of following Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

These religious leaders say that since many people may not trust health or government officials, it’s now their time to step in.

Two religious leaders in Springfield spoke about their concerns for children, especially those under 12 who cannot be vaccinated.

They said that vaccines are not against Christian beliefs.

Rev. Emily Bowen-Marler of Brentwood Christian Church says, “Now that the delta variant is here, why can’t we do some sacrificing for our children who can’t be vaccinated?”

Christopher Dixon, Pastor at West Finley Baptist Church, says, “When Jesus himself was asked the greatest commandment, right after love your god with everything you’ve got, with all your heart, mind and soul, it was to love your neighbors as yourself.”

Rev. Bowen-Marler added, “In the opening words of the bible, God tells the story of creation. God infused us with a creative spirit, that creative spirit is what gives us minds to create and to innovate; and one of the ways that we express that is through innovations and medical technology. These vaccines are safe, they have done trials, they have done studies on these, and we just want to encourage people to get vaccinated.”

The churches that signed the joint statement all have the same message: this is not a religious or political issue.

“I would use the term, perhaps, gently encouraging it? But in no way are we want to try to force anything. There’s no ulterior motive. You can be a strong democrat; you can be a strong republican. That’s fine. What we’re asking is, if you have friends, family you care about, loved ones, children, nieces, nephews of all ages, this would be the time to consider. This is a health issue far more than a religious one,” says Dixon.