Across the world, the attitude displayed by the religious environments, either Cristian or Muslim, with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic has slowly switched from denying its harmfulness to half-hearted acknowledgment over the spread of the virus.
Iran had canceled the weekly Friday prayers in major cities and Saudi Arabia had suspended the Umrah pilgrimage for residents and citizens, by the end of February. In mid-March, the religious authorities in Kuweit asked Muslims to pray at home. Egypt has ordered all mosques to limit Friday prayers, including the weekly sermon, to no more than 15 minutes.
In Syria, Friday prayers were canceled and the doors shut at the Umayyad Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in the world. In Lebanon, Friday prayers have been temporarily suspended in all Shia mosques. Also, Iraq’s most influential Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, urged people to abide by a ban on mass prayers. Other Muslim countries like Turkey, UAE and Jordan have
In particular, Pakistan seemed reluctant in taking a strong stance against the virus spread, allowing in early March the gathering in Lahore of about 250,000 people, to participate in the Tableeghi Ijtema [literally “a congregation for outreach”] – an Islamic event organized by the local Tableeghi Jamaat [Outreach Congress]. The Pakistani authorities also allowed the Friday prayers on March 20, nationwide.
In Israel, no sooner than yesterday the leaders of the ultra-Orthodox community called on the followers to perform their prayers individually and not in quorums of ten, as permitted by the Health Ministry. This decision also came after thousands of residents of Bnei Brak, a predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of nearly 200,000 people, took part in a funeral procession for a venerated rabbi, in violation of emergency directives against the virus.
The Romanian Orthodox Church has initially rejected the recommendations coming from the civil society which were calling for a halt of the regular prayers but reacted by asking the followers to avoid kissing the icons in church and to get the Holy Communion with a spoon they bring from home. Eventually, on March 18th, a set of guidelines for churches and monasteries was issued, which only allows outdoors ceremonies and only involving under 100 people, amid cases reported by the media of priests tacitly refusing to comply with the current regulations imposed by the Health Ministry. At the same time, the Roman Catholic Church of Romania asked the believers to follow the instructions addressing the spread of the virus, but decided for the moment not to close the churches.
Most recently, the Romanian Orthodox Church reacted to this crisis by providing radio and television broadcasting, as well as live streaming of religious services held in churches. Also, several monasteries have been selected as shelter centers for people placed under quarantine by the medical authorities.
Sources: Al-Jazeera, Haaretz, Digi24, Times of Israel, Romania Insider, Trinitas TV.
Photo source: „Lumina” Journal.