South Sudan: Muslims welcome govt’s decision to reopen worship places

Hentet fra  The Insider | Av  David Mono Danga 

Muslims in Juba have welcomed the government’s decision to reopen places of worship after months of being closed due to COVID 19 restrictions.

Muslim leaders are called on worshipers in mosques across South Sudan to observe health ministry guidelines including regular hand washing and social distancing.

With the sound of the ‘Adhan,’ was heard in Juba Town area Friday calling the Muslim faithful for the Friday prayers.  Hundreds of Muslims flocked to the Kuwait Grand Mosque in Juba.

It was the first prayer service in five months since the government banned all religious gatherings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in South Sudan.

Muslim Abdula Sadat Laku said he was happy and excited to hear the call for prayers on Friday, but revealed he was also afraid of coronavirus pandemic.

“COVID-19 is still there, we have to take precautionary measures.” Laku said.

He said he was pleased to see everyone who had entered the mosque was wearing a facemask.

“That’s good; social distancing and no shaking hands, no greeting unless from far. We are afraid (of COVID-19) but we all know that God heals, and God protects. If you have your mask, you wash your hand with soap and water, you have your sanitizer and you follow the measures from the ministry of health, I think no need to fear.” Laku told The Insider last week.

Muslims praying at the Kuwait Grand Mosque in Juba Town Friday August 29, 2020. Photo by David Mono Danga

Leading Friday’s prayers, the Imam of the Mosque Sheikh Abdalla Baraj told the Muslim faithful to resume prayers but to take COVID-19 preventive guidelines seriously.

“Now that we are allowed to reopen and resume our gatherings, we need to follow all directives including wearing masks, social distance, and to avoid shaking hands at all times.” Sheikh Baraj said, stressing even the Holy Quran advises the Muslims to protect each other.

“let us all help in keeping these directives and help the Health Ministry and authorities in the country to raise awareness among our citizens so that we avoid the spread of this Coronavirus pandemic.” Sheikh Baraj added.

About 500 believers entered the 3,000-capacity mosque and stayed one meter apart inside per social distancing guidelines.

Muslims who did not wear face masks were barred from entering the mosque. An aide stood at the entrance with a temperature gun measuring each worshipper’s temperature before the person was allowed to go inside.

On Thursday, the Islamic Council announced the reopening of prayers after a meeting of the National Task Force on COVID-19.

Sheikh Vitale Aligo Samson, deputy chair of the South Sudan Civil Society Alliance and a national COVID 19 Task Force member, said the task force agreed to allow religious activities to resume on condition that religious leaders enforce all coronavirus preventive measures.

Samson added that the places of worship will reopen one by one since the pandemic is still dangerous according to the Medical Advisory Plenary of the task force.

“Corona is still squeezing, is still killing people and the government is very serious to save the lives of citizens, that’s why all the religious leaders have been asked to abide by the guidelines of the coronavirus” Samson told The Insider.

He said the Medical advisory team advised that while Muslims are praying, the windows of mosques should remain open to prevent spread of the pandemic.

Most churches, including the protestant church and Seventh Day Adventists churches had started to conduct masses with the exception of the catholic church which is waiting for official reopening of prayers by the new bishop, Bishop Stephen Ameyu of the Juba Archdiocese.

However, a group of Christians gather every Sunday at Saint. Joseph’s Parish to listen to sermons on the Bakhita radio in Juba town.

During a weekly media briefing on Sunday, health ministry officials said although the number of coronavirus cases are declining in the country, citizens should remain vigilant because neighboring countries are seeing an increase in cases.

Health ministry spokesperson Dr. Thuou LOI said people should continue to wear facemasks in public places.

“we have received few positive cases compared to some few weeks or months back. But it’s also very true that cases are increasing in our neighboring countries, mainly Uganda with cross border activities with the Republic of South Sudan.” Dr. Loi said.

South Sudan currently has 2,524 confirmed cases, with 1,294 and 47 deaths according to Sunday August 30, 2020 data. Dr. Loi cautioned that; “we should be very vigilant about the fact that COVID-19 is still here and we should consistently continue to adhere and implement preventive measures.”