Govt reopens non-Muslim places of worship

Updated May 30 2020

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A committee will be formed for every non-Muslim worship area to ensure the implementation of SOPs to stem the spread of Covid-19. — Abdul Majeed Goraya/File
A committee will be formed for every non-Muslim worship area to ensure the implementation of SOPs to stem the spread of Covid-19. — Abdul Majeed Goraya/File

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has lifted a ban on prayers and congregations in non-Muslim places of worships.

However, worshippers will have to follow safety guidelines in churches, temples and gurdwaras to prevent virus.

The relief rehabilitation and settlement department notified the lifting of the ban saying it is subject to revision in light of the Covid-19 situation and advice of health experts.

It said under the standard operating procedures, the floors of worship areas won’t be covered with carpets, while worshippers would offer prayers on bare floors.

According to the department, if worship places have mud floors, personal mats will be used and if carpets cannot be removed, they will be covered by plastic sheets, which should be cleaned regularly.

Worshippers bound to follow safety guidelines to prevent virus

The formation of assembly will be avoided before and after prayers and will be discouraged by the managements of individual non-Muslim worship places.

If these worship places have courtyards, prayers will be performed there instead of closed or covered areas and not beyond premises.

The children, elderly people and those with co-morbidity or Covid-19 symptoms will not be allowed to visit churches and temples.

Floors, benches and chairs in worship areas will be cleaned with disinfectant.

The department said six feet distance among worshipers would be ensured in non-Muslim worship places and that such places would be marked if it was possible and didn’t violate the sanctity of the premises.

It added that shaking of hands and hugging by worshippers won’t be allowed.

“Every worshiper will wear a face mask before entering the worship areas. The managements of the minority worship areas will keep a close liaison with the relevant district administration and police,” it said.

The department said the quantity of the holy water in the baptismal at vestibules and other points of churches would be kept at such a level that it would be used according the one time, one person principle.

It added that railings, altar, tabernacle and pulpits would be cleaned with disinfectant, while crockery used in rites would also be sanitised and would be used exclusively.

The department said a committee would be formed for every non-Muslim worship area to ensure the implementation of SOPs to stem the spread of Covid-19.

It said there would be a ban on processions at such places.

Meanwhile, minority MPA Wazirzada told Dawn that non-Muslims were stopped from offering prayers and holding congregations in places of worship to contain Covid-19 but the restriction had been relaxed allowing them to offer prayers there under SOPs.

He said during the closure of worship places, non-Muslims offered prayers from home along with religious leaders online.

The lawmaker said clergymen were bound to enforce SOPs on the premises.

He said large congregations would continue to be banned, while the SOP violators would be dealt with strictly.

Another minority MPA, Ravi Kumar, said non-Muslims would have to follow preventive measures against virus during visit to places of worship.

“Covid-19 is fast spreading, so there is no room for negligence,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2020