Datuk Danald Jute

KUCHING: Bishop of the Anglican Church in Sarawak and Brunei, the Right Reverend Datuk Danald Jute, has said that whether Anglican churches and chapels in Sarawak will reopen on June 10 or later would be reviewed in due time.

“Our position is that we will not reopen our churches and chapels until the conditional movement control order (CMCO) is lifted and on condition that there is assurance from the Ministry of Health that Covid-19 no longer poses a threat to the general public.

“In other words, we will not gather in our churches and chapels until it is safe enough to do so without risking public health,” he told New Sarawak Tribune yesterday.

He was responding to Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s announcement on Thursday (May 21) that non-Muslim houses of worship in green zones would be allowed to reopen starting June 10.

“Whether or not we reopen on June 10 or later, will be reviewed judiciously when the time comes. The safety of our people is our paramount pastoral and spiritual duty. So we plead for patience and understanding from everyone, especially members of the church,” said Danald.

He noted that earlier on, the federal government had planned to allow non-Muslim houses of worship to reopen during the CMCO period in line with the reopening of some mosques, with an announcement that a standard operating procedure (SOP) was being prepared for the purpose.

“The heads of Christian churches disagree with this approach as they maintained that public gatherings should not be allowed until it is deemed safe to do so,” he said.

He said that the Covid-19 virus was still not fully understood, and he pointed out that numerous other countries hit by a second wave of the pandemic had been forced to go into lockdown again. He added that the present situation in Malaysia and Sarawak was still uncertain and volatile.

Anglican churches, he said, would continue with their online streaming of services on Sundays and some weekdays.

“When we do reopen after June 10, we seek cooperation from everyone to observe the strict guidelines that we have issued, including sanitising church premises, prohibiting physical contact, registering attendees, wearing face masks, and social distancing,” he said.