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Indian religious leaders welcome financial help

Andhra Pradesh move timely as churches, temples and mosques remain closed during Covid-19 shutdown

Indian religious leaders welcome financial help

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy said his government has been implementing schemes for the welfare of people irrespective of religion, caste and region. (Photo: IANS)

The government of Andhra Pradesh is to offer financial assistance of 5,000 rupees (US$65) to religious service leaders associated with all mosques, temples and churches.

State Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy announced the aid package on April 22 during a meeting with Muslim leaders on measures being taken by the government to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

“Indeed, it is good news. We should all welcome the step taken by the government as it is timely and necessary because many religious leaders have been going through bad times due to the lockdown and have no source of income,” Father Anthoniraj Thumma, executive secretary of the Federation of Telugu Churches, told UCA News.

“This is a one-time grant to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic. It is proposed to be granted not only to pastors but also other religious service renderers such as Hindu archakas and Muslim imams.

“Since churches, temples and mosques are closed, this grant will be benefit those who depend on donations from them. However, those who are already receiving a regular salary or honorarium from the state or religious institutions are excluded, according to the government order.”

Father Thumma, who is also the regional director of the Commission for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue of Hyderabad Archdiocese, said that the chief minister has also appealed to religious leaders to urge the Muslim community to offer prayers at home during the holy month of Ramadan that begins on April 24.

“Prayers are offered at least five times during Ramadan in the mosque or collectively, but the present circumstances do not permit this, hence the request. It is your responsibility to convey this to fellow brethren. It's a difficult thing to ask for, but it is inevitable,” said Reddy. 

Reddy said his government belonged to all communities and had been implementing schemes for the welfare of people irrespective of religion, caste and region. His government is also providing financial support for Muslim and Christian pilgrims.

Despite the financial issues, the government had given 1,000 rupees to each family and is providing rations three times a month, he said.

Meanwhile, Muslim leaders in Andhra Pradesh have complained about fake news regarding the spread of the pandemic by the Muslim community after a gathering in New Delhi in March.

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Tablighi Jamaat, a global Islamic missionary movement, hosted a congregation attended by followers from India and abroad. Many attendees later showed symptoms of the coronavirus and 10 were reported to have died.

After the congregation, many of them travelled to various states, while others many remained in the city as they could not travel due to lockdown in Delhi, media reports said.

The chief minister has directed officials to take action against such fake news and propaganda.

“The Andhra Pradesh government’s work is highly appreciated because while many political leaders in the country are accusing a particular community of spreading the disease, this government comes forward with timely assistance,” Mohammed Sadiq Ahmed, coordinator of the Dharmika Jana Morcha, told UCA News.

“It is not the time to play the blame game but it is a time to unite and fight the pandemic collectively. In fact, we appeal to all states in the country to come forward and help our imams, priest and pastors.” 

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