Clear guidelines needed for houses of worship, say groups

PETALING JAYA: Clear guidelines on the dos and don’ts at houses of worship are necessary to ensure worshippers are safe, say several non-Muslim religious groups.

Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism council member Loh Pai Ling welcomed the government’s decision to allow non-Muslim places of worship to operate under strict standard operating procedure (SOP).

She said people tend to group together at places of worship and they might forget to keep a safe distance from each other.

However, Loh, who is also president of the Buddhist Missionary Society of Malaysia, said some houses of worship were still wary of reopening due to several concerns.

“Extra manpower and financial resources are needed to implement the SOP and not all places of worship have the means to carry them out, ” she said, referring to the purchase of temperature scanners, hand sanitisers and disinfectants and having people to conduct checks and cleaning.

Council of Churches of Malaysia general secretary Rev Dr Hermen Shastri also welcomed the announcement, saying churches would exercise the resumption of worship at one-third capacity with prudence and social responsibility.

Churches in Malaysia, he said, remained committed to operating under the SOP by the National Security Council by prioritising health safety in all areas.

He also said that the government should come out with a set of clear and specific SOP or guidelines on what is allowed and what is not for all houses of worship.

“For example, what about a small group congregating in a home for prayers?” he said.

Yesterday, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that all non-Muslim houses of worship in the country would be allowed to operate in compliance with the SOP during the recovery movement control order period.

Meanwhile, Buddist Maha Vihara president Sirisena Perera is cautiously optimistic.

“We will work out an implementation plan and make a public announcement once the SOP is announced, ” he said.

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