Faith in the time of coronavirus


United in prayer: Muslim women praying while observing the SOP on the first night of Ramadan at the Istiqlal grand mosque in Jakarta. — AFP

For the second year in a row, Indonesian Muslims are celebrating the holy month of Ramadan with limited social gatherings, only this time they are encouraged to better contribute to public health by getting their vaccine jabs.

The government reminded Muslims to avoid large gatherings during prayers and the collection and distribution of alms.

Last year, many congregants across the country continued to perform terawih (Ramadan evening prayers) in mosques during the first few days of the fasting month despite the government’s official advisory and partial lockdown policies in several regions that required worship from home.

Many flocked to traditional markets as Ramadan started yesterday, and some villagers even began the month early.

This year, the government is allowing Muslims to perform prayers, including congregational terawih, in places of worship, but has limited attendance to a maximum of 50% of capacity, with notes on a strict application of health protocols.

In a circular released recently, Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas called on his regional officials and local mosque managers around the country to provide Covid-19-risk-free worship guidelines to the people.

The ministry said healthy Muslims were still encouraged to fast according to religious provisions, but it has asked that iftar and sahur (pre-dawn) meals be held in their respective homes with their immediate family. Nevertheless, joint iftar events can still be held at 50% of the venue capacity.

The duration of religious recitations or Ramadan sermons is limited to 15 minutes, while mosque officials are obliged to make clear to all congregations about health protocols, carry out regular disinfections and provide facilities for hand washing at the entrances.

“Please pray while adhering to health protocols so that we can worship safely without being exposed to the risk of Covid-19, ” Yaqut.

Referring to Yaqut’s circular, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan appealed to Muslims in the capital to always wear masks and not force their way into a mosque if the capacity exceeds the limit.

“After one year of the pandemic, there is certainly a desire to perform terawih together at the mosque. Let’s not waste this blessed month, by remaining disciplined in implementing health protocols, ” he wrote on Instagram on Sunday.

As preparation for Ramadan, the Jakarta administration, with the help of district officials and residents, disinfected 317 mosques, according to Anies.

The Health Ministry will maintain the vaccine rollout throughout the fasting month, intending to especially ramp up inoculation of the elderly to anticipate a spike of cases.

Vaccination on the elderly continues to lag behind that of public service and essential workers, with only 2 million out of the targeted 21.5 million seniors having received their first jab since the rollout began in February. — The Jakarta Post/ANN

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