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Indian religious leaders urge faithful to follow Covid-19 rules

Interfaith groups call for tolerance and help for impoverished communities amid the nationwide lockdown

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Indian religious leaders urge faithful to follow Covid-19 rules

The full moon is seen as a man wearing a face mask walks along a deserted road in Allahabad on April 7 during India's nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the coronavirus. (Photo: Sanjay Kanojia/AFP)

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Religious leaders in the southern Indian state of Telangana have urged followers to adhere to the government’s guidelines on Covid-19 as the state reported the highest number of casualties after a Muslim conference in New Delhi was blamed for spreading the disease.

Tablighi Jamaat, a global Islamic missionary movement, hosted a congregation last month in the national capital attended by followers from home and abroad. Many later showed symptoms of the coronavirus and 10 are reported to have died.

“Religious leaders here are aware of what that the prime minister has appealed through the chief ministers and social development leaders when he spoke with state leaders last week,” Father Anthoniraj Thumma, executive secretary of the Federation of Telugu Churches, told UCA News.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his conversation with state leaders urged religious representatives to ensure that their followers strictly follow the guidelines issued by the government in order to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Hence, we urge our people to take essential preventive measures until this restriction is lifted. 

“Modi in his video conference with chief ministers asked them to urge religious leaders to disseminate the message of social distancing and asked their community members to avoid large gatherings.”

In an April 7 press release, Father Thumma, who is also coordinator of Dharmik Jan Morcha, appealed for followers to understand that the nation has taken these strict measures of social distancing, lockdowns and curfews in some areas in order to arrest its spread by breaking the chain and to prevent community spreading.

“It is essential therefore to stop all social and religious gatherings, any religious congregations and community and family functions,” said the press release signed by all religious leaders.

Launched in Telangana in 2019, Dharmik Jan Morcha is an initiative by a Muslim group called Jamat-e-Islami Hind to promote religious tolerance and spread the message of love and unity among all creeds.

More than 2,000 delegates from India and abroad attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area from March 1-15.

After the gathering many of them traveled to various states, while many foreigners could not leave due to the lockdown in Delhi, media reports said.

On March 30-31 they were evacuated by police and sent to hospitals and quarantine centers in the capital.

The Morcha release said many religious groups and faith-based organizations across the country are responding to this humanitarian crisis by participating in awareness campaigns and providing impoverished communities with food, water, face masks, hand sanitizer and sanitary kits.

“We encourage these joint efforts and networking of various social and religious groups and urge many more to take such initiatives of solidarity at all levels,” the press release said.

“We need to do much more to mobilize the necessary resources and volunteers to prevent and control the spread of the coronavirus, to render medical care and treatment to patients of Covid-19, and to reach out to the poor and needy.

“It is a God-given opportunity for us to unite as one, putting aside differences of creed, caste and class to forge one common humanity. Let us shun all forms of polarization and division caused by prejudice and intolerance.” 

Mohammed Sadiq Ahmed, coordinator of Dharmika Jana Morcha, told UCA News: “We have to leave the past behind, forget what happened in Delhi and concentrate on our future, the future of the nation which is witnessing a tough time."

“There is no point in blaming any particular community at this stage as is happening on social media. Our first priorities must be to unite and show brotherhood at this junction,” Ahmed added.

Kalvakuntla Chandrashekhar Rao, chief minister of Telangana, said that as of April 6 almost 26,000 people were under quarantine. Telangana has reported 321 cases and seven deaths so far.

“There are 308 active positive cases in the state now. There are 172 patients who attended the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi and through them another 93 people got the virus," said Rao.

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