ACS: Suspend all religious gatherings and services until end of March

Archbishop Simon Poh

KUCHING, Mar 16: Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) chairman Archbishop Simon Poh calls for the suspension of all congregational gatherings and public worship until end of March.

He said the decision will be reviewed by end of the month.

“As anak-anak Sarawak who are people of harmony and goodwill, let us also respond together with people of all faiths and religions in Sarawak.

“COVID-19 can potentially infect anyone of us and our families, irrespective of race, religion or social status.

“Let us stand as one rakyat in our beloved land of Sarawak, by optimising our efforts to contain Covid-19 by suspending all congregational gatherings and public worship.

“We shall review by end of this month to determine our next cause of action.

“Yesterday we had a few positive cases. But today, the numbers have doubled. Within a week, these can exponentiate into thousands if we do not take drastic actions swiftly. I know that many churches have already acted decisively these few days,” Poh said in a statement today.

He said on Sunday (Mar 15, 2020), one of the Christian pastors was diagnosed with Covid-19.

“As bishops, priests, pastors and church leaders, we realise that any of our churches, Sunday public worship or congregational gathering can be a potential avenue for Covid-19 outbreak to occur.

“In view of the few positive cases reported yesterday on March 15, and simply counting back based on a 14-day period before any symptoms appear, we can conclude that Covid-19 was already in Sarawak in early March.

“Within these 14 days, we do not know who have been exposed or infected. We can expect these cases to surface within this week, while more people are infected in the meantime. Statistics projected another 8-fold infections.

“Should church leaders remain complacent, we will unwittingly contribute to the exponential explosion of COVID-19 outbreak in Sarawak.

“As Chairman of ACS, I strongly appeal to all churches to be socially responsible,” advised Poh.

He said Christians in Sarawak can make a crucial difference by temporarily suspending all public worship, congregational gatherings, etc. during this crucial initial 14-day window.

“This will enable the State Disaster Management Committee to identify clusters that surface, isolate and contain Covid-19.”

He said in this way, Christians actually help to flatten the exponential curve and hospitals will not be increasingly overloaded. A flatten curve will allow more time for lives to be saved.

“Let us not despair nor be paralysed by fear. Instead we are to intensify our prayers, confidently cry aloud to our Heavenly Father ‘Abba Father, deliver us from all evil and sickness.’ (cfr Mt 6:9-13).

“We place all our hope and trust in our Lord ‘who took up our infirmities and bore our diseases’ (Mt 8:17).

“While acknowledging that our Weekend worship is indeed central to our Christian faith, let us be daring to seek alternative and creative ways by employing the use of electronic media to facilitate our worship. Our Lord Jesus has promised: ‘Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Mt 28:20).

“May Almighty and Merciful Father bring a swift end to this crisis.

“Collectively, let us comply with instructions from our Government and Ministry of Health, taking the highest possible health precautions and educating our Christians to practise good hygiene at all times,” said Poh.

He also reminded Christians of their duty in the wider Sarawak context.

“In our wider society of Sarawak, let us be kind and considerate to each another, in collaborating and sharing resources to overcome the challenging days ahead.

“By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn 13:35),” said Poh. — DayakDaily