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Jakarta Post

North Sulawesi governor asks residents to pray simultaneously to dispel COVID-19 pandemic

  • Agustinus Hari

    The Jakarta Post

Manado, North Sulawesi   /   Tue, March 17, 2020   /   06:32 pm
North Sulawesi governor asks residents to pray simultaneously to dispel COVID-19 pandemic Mass-goers sit in pews separated by yellow tape to keep interpersonal distance to help limit the spread of the coronavirus at a church in Borongan, Eastern Samar, the Philippines, on Sunday. (AFP/Alren BERONIO)

North Sulawesi governor Olly Dondokambey asked residents of the province to pray together on Tuesday, with each person conducting their prayer in private, in an effort to ward off the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

“I am asking all of us to pray in unison at 12 p.m. We shall all ask the Lord to end the COVID-19 pandemic that has hit the world, Indonesia and North Sulawesi,” Olly said in Manado on Tuesday.

The governor asked residents to pray individually, or at least in small groups, in their respective homes or offices. 

Olly also suggested that residents mark the time of the prayer by ringing church bells, hitting the beduk (a large animal-skin drum) – an Indonesian way of announcing Islamic prayer times – or by using any other tools for religious activities.

The governor asked residents to keep calm and not panic, advising them to maintain their immunity by practicing a healthy lifestyle.

“Do not hesitate to go to healthcare services when you feel ill. For now, let us all minimize our activities that involve being in a crowd. Avoid the crowds,” he added.

The Minahasa Injili Masehi Church (GMIM) has called on its congregation to reduce gatherings that involve many people, except for routine worship.

“Direct contact among the churchgoers within the fellowships and ministries must be conducted in the safest way possible without reducing the value of respect [within the church],” said GMIM’s Synod Council chairman, Pastor Hein Arina.

The bishop of Manado Diocese, Benedictus Estephanus Rolly Untu, has urged residents to maintain their spiritual life without neglecting the social distancing policy to prevent the further spread of the disease. 

“If you are feeling ill, especially with symptoms similar to coronavirus, you better pray from home,” he added.

The bishop said churches would continue providing holy water in containers that would be cleaned regularly and thoroughly. 

“For those who are comfortable receiving [the holy water], they may. But for those who are not, they are permitted not to receive it,” the bishop said.

He went on to say that greetings would occur without direct physical contact. Instead, churchgoers would use namaste greetings, which would prevent them from touching others, he added.

As of Tuesday, Indonesia had reported 172 confirmed cases of COVID-19, of which nine have recovered and five have died. At least eight provinces have confirmed cases, including Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Central Java, Banten and North Sulawesi.

Although North Sulawesi has recorded only one case so far, the province is one of the preferred tourist destinations in Indonesia, especially for visitors from China, whose city Wuhan was where the coronavirus outbreak was first identified. The pandemic has now killed more than 7,100 people worldwide.

According to the North Sulawesi Statistics Agency, 10,442 tourists from China visited the province in September of last year, 87.9 percent of the total foreign tourists visiting the province. North Sulawesi offers a distinct and sometimes controversial cuisine, including paniki (bat stew), as part of its attractions. (asp)