Churches tread cautiously before reopening

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuching, Most Reverend Simon Poh.

KUCHING: Churches in Sarawak have generally agreed to be cautious before deciding to open to the congregation.

Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) chairman Archbishop Simon Poh said this was agreed upon after the respective head of churches had a brief discussion in its group chat following the release of updated standard operating procedures (SOPs) for houses of worship by the Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) last Friday (July 23).

“ACS is appreciative to Unifor for the SOPs under Phase Two of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) in Sarawak which allows houses of worship and our churches to reopen to congregation effective July 24.

“After receiving the SOPs and after our discussion, we agreed to be cautious and prudent before opening our churches, especially in Kuching where the infection cases have been increasing,” he said on Saturday.

Poh said that he had also sent a memo to all the heads of churches stating that first and foremost, areas detected with cases and are put under enhanced movement control order (EMCO) are not allowed to open.

“Furthermore, I would advocate caution and prudence, and that churches beside EMCO locations are strongly urged not to open because of common social circles of contact by the people in those affected areas. 

“Thus, I call on all church leaders to be prudent by monitoring and to first ensure that the cases are contained before rushing to reopen,” he said.

For the past months, he said, the state has been put under movement control order (MCO) and with expeditious vaccine roll out, the infection curve is slowly being flattened.

“Thus, it is important that we do not undo the months of sacrifices we have made to contain the pandemic,” he stressed.

He also said as Covid-19 virus infects any human without concern for culture, race, faith or social standing, therefore, it was important that the people of Sarawak and especially in all houses of worship — cathedrals, churches, temples, mosques, surau and other religious centres — will have to, with one mind and heart, maintain the safety SOPs for worships.

“This is especially when our houses of worship are gathering points for our respective followers who come from different locations in a city, town or surrounding villages. 

“And each family has their own social circles of contact.  So, let us work together for the common good of all as we seek to contain the pandemic,” he said.

He also called upon religious leaders to continue to pray and to encourage respective congregations to have compassion to donate and procure food aid to distribute them to urban families or those in the rural villages who are in need.

“Thus, while we may be struggling ourselves, let us live simple lives and we can contribute any surplus that we have to help one another who are in a worse situation than we are. 

“When everyone gives a helping hand and contributes a little, we make the world a kinder place, offer hope and immediate relief to those who are suffering,” said Poh.