UAE combats Covid-19: Religious leaders say safety first as closure is extended


This is the holy week for Christians with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Saturday vigil and Easter.

With the authorities extending the closure of places of worship in the UAE until further notice for the safety of community members, religious preachers have urged the faithful to keep the faith, adhere to the directives of the government and follow stay-at-home and social-distancing policy for the larger good in these trying times.

This is the holy week for Christians with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Saturday vigil and Easter on Sunday. However, with Covid-19 restrictions, churches continue to remain shut for followers and are instead live-streaming their services. All the masses are made available through YouTube and Facebook platforms.

At St Thomas Indian Orthodox Church in Dubai, the Good Friday services were held as per liturgy by the priests who reside within the church premises. Rev Fr Ninan Philip, vicar and president of St Thomas Indian Orthodox Church, said: “Although we could not replicate the feeling of worshipping together, we still tried our best by live-streaming the services for all those at home.”

Commenting on the extension of the closure of places of worship, Fr Ninan said: “Although the decision is painful, we support the government and comply by the directives keeping in mind the larger good. We choose to look at the silver lining in such a situation. So far, we had only one Indian Orthodox Church in Dubai, but today, we have over 2,000 places of worship within the city, as we witness the homes of each parish member transform into a church. This extended time in the presence of God will truly be a blessing for all of us.” St Joseph’s Cathedral Abu Dhabi conducted four services on Friday. Bishop Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, lead the afternoon mass. Other churches also had a busy schedule with priests conducting services throughout Friday as faithful followed from their homes through live-streaming.

Urging people to remain patient, Lewis (Ismail) Bullock, head of the cultural communications department at Islamic Information Centre, said the stay at home order and social distancing at the times of calamity has always been ordained by Islam. He said: “Prayers have been temporarily stopped at the mosques for a reason. This is based upon an important principle from Islam, which is the preservation of life. Throughout Islamic history, there have been many times when people were faced with adverse situations such as bad weather, plagues, epidemics and at these times Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) the procedure was always to close the mosques and stop gathering. So, we must not worry, stay patient and obey the orders of our government, Rulers as this is what we have been ordained to do by Allah as well as by his prophet.”

Meanwhile, the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi held a webcast of weekly satsang sabha on Friday.

“We are following the UAE Government directives. All activities are suspended. We are continuing online prayer session on Friday. As human history is being rewritten and we are so helpless, people need emotional support. We pray for everybody,” said Ashok Kotecha, one of the directors of the temple.

Abu Dhabi’s first gurudwara remains shut and services are live-streamed. “We are following rules of the UAE Government. We are together in this fight against Covid-19. We continue to remain shut, avoid any crowd and have also stopped ‘langar’ (community kitchen). But we live-telecast our prayer services held twice a day. We do this to help people tide over this difficult phase,” gurudwara chief coordinator Harjinder Singh said.

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