RELIGIOUS bodies said they anticipated restrictions to be placed on them given the increasing number of positive cases and are ready to return to virtual fellowship for the next three weeks.
General Secretary of the Anjuman Sunnat-Ul-Jamaat Association (ASJA) Rahimool Hosein said even with Eid-ul-Fitr, which will be celebrated on May 13, the Muslim community is embracing the measures implemented to halt the spread of the virus.
On Thursday the Prime Minister announced that from Friday until May 23, all religious institutions and places of worship will be closed. This restriction is reminiscent of those implemented last year, which eventually was eased to allow for virtual services before moving to 50 percent capacity.
Hosein said: “Yesterday (Wednesday) we saw a drastic increase in the number of positive cases. As a Muslim community we observe the protocols. We have no intention, absolutely no intention, of violating Government's covid19 protocols.”
He added that the protocols will impact the community but “we have to obey our covid19 protocols. We have to look at the greater good.”
For his part, Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) Vijay Maharaj said the last major festival on the Hindu calendar was Hanuman Jayanti which was celebrated on Monday and the next one will be at the end of August. He added that many Hindus have temples at their homes and can freely worship there, without the need for large congregating.
“We have our services scattered; now we will have to be closed. We have nothing in May to talk about. We won’t have anything until after the end of May, unlike our Muslim brethren who have Eid on May 13. We have nothing falling in that period,” Maharaj said.
He said Maha Sabha temples will remain closed with caretakers stepping in from time to time to maintain the surroundings.
Just about an hour before Dr Rowley's announcement on Thursday, Catholic Archbishop Fr Jason Gordon called on his parishioners to adhere to the safety protocols and avoid unnecessary gatherings. Officials at the Archdiocese of Port of Spain promised a further statement will be issued on the latest restrictions.
Head of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies (PAWI) Bishop Rev Don Hamilton said his membership was “anticipating this, given the trend.” He added that PAWI churches have already diversified their services to virtual and have held seminars on virtual church-going. He said “by and large we have gone the way of online church.”
Head of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) Fr Knolly Clarke said religious people needed to be wise as serpents yet gentle as doves. He said he was saddened that in-person services were stopped, but understood the need for this move.
“What saddens me the most is my Sunday School has to close,” Clarke said. He said the IRO will be having a day of prayer on Saturday from 6 am to 6 pm. Their membership will have a few people in their various places of worship to broadcast their prayers, which will be against violence towards women, crime and other issues negatively impacting the country.