A letter calling on people in authority in Canada to "cease and desist" promotion of COVID-19 vaccines and other measures dealing with the pandemic is landing in the mailboxes of some Christian clergy and church leaders in Winnipeg.
The unsigned letter, which comes from a so-called group "We the people," tells recipients to stop "all the genocide and crimes against humanity" for promoting vaccinations, PCR tests, mask mandates and quarantines.
It cites the UNESCO Universal Declaration of Bioethics and Human Right (sic) as the basis for the order.
Erik Parker, pastor of Sherwood Park Lutheran Church, received the letter last week.
"I was suspicious right away," he said of the message, which had no return address and was sent to him at the church office.
Concerned by what it might contain, he put a mask on, took it outside, opened it and then "shook it," he said, in case there might have been any noxious substances inside.
Later, after reading it, he had a "good laugh" at what he called its "pseudo-legal nonsense."
At the same time, as an outspoken promoter of vaccinations and mask-wearing, Parker admitted he felt a bit anxious.
Unlike with an e-mail or social media message, which is easy for someone to send, whoever mailed the letter "went to the trouble of looking up my address and sending a letter to me. That’s a bit concerning."
Parker wondered if the letter was sent in response to his recent criticism in the Free Press of Springs Church. The Winnipeg church had said it was planning to offer religious exemptions from getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
“If it had come to my home address, I’d be more concerned.” – Pastor Erik Parker
"If it had come to my home address, I’d be more concerned," said the father of two small children.
"I get a fair bit of hateful responses from trolls online," he said. "I’m not surprised some people are upset. I’ll just add this to the list."
Michael Pahl, executive minister of Mennonite Church Manitoba, also received the same letter at his office.
"I laughed it off," he said. "It was clearly not legitimate."
While Pahl doesn’t feel personally threatened, it does make him wonder if "there could be something more sinister behind it."
Mennonite Church Manitoba issued a recent statement that it would not offer a religious exemption from getting the vaccine. The majority of responses since have been positive, Pahl said, adding critical letters such as this one "come with the territory."
“Every day brings something new, and staff are stressed, even though it’s usually directed at me.” – Christian ministry leader
The leader of another Christian ministry in Winnipeg, who doesn’t want to be named, also received the letter. The leader, who has also promoted vaccinations, said the message upset staff at the organization.
"Every day brings something new, and staff are stressed, even though it’s usually directed at me," he said, adding he has been accused of being a "spiritual terrorist" for promoting vaccinations.
This is not the first time the letter has surfaced in Canada. In summer, copies were sent to pharmacies, vaccination clinics and health-care providers in Ontario; it has also been received by some businesses in B.C. and Alberta.
According to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, it seems to be connected with a woman named Romana Didulo, who claims to be the "sovereign of the republic of Canada."
In online postings on the social media platform Telegram, where she has 20,000 followers, Didulo writes about her demands for an end to vaccinations and other measures to control the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a report by Vice, Didulo’s followers are in the midst of sending the letter to businesses, governments, police forces and other groups telling them to stop all activities related to combating the pandemic.
John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.