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Indonesian Catholics, Muslims unite in fight against virus

Church, Islamic organization bury religious differences to vaccinate at least 2,000 people in Catholic-majority province

Indonesian Catholics, Muslims unite in fight against virus

A nun in Maumere in East Nusa Tenggara province is vaccinated on Aug. 2 during a vaccination program at the Institute of Teacher Training and Education belonging to Muhammadiyah, a Muslim organization. (Photo supplied)

An Indonesian bishop has hailed cooperation between a moderate Muslim organization and priests and nuns in his diocese which has allowed the smooth implementation of a mass vaccination program amid heightened Covid-19 fears.

Bishop Ewaldus Martinus Sedu of Maumere in East Nusa Tenggara province said the collaboration between Muhammadiyah — the second-largest Islamic organization in Indonesia — and church people to mobilize and get involved in the vaccine program was a tangible manifestation that "we are all brothers" in the fight against this pandemic.

"We are brothers and are tolerant not only in theory or in words but in real life," Bishop Sedu said on Aug. 4.

Taking place at the Muhammadiyah Institute of Teacher Training and Education in Maumere, the program is looking to vaccinate at least 2,000 people from Aug. 2-7.

Priests and nuns are involved in encouraging residents in the Catholic-majority province’s Sikka district to get vaccinated.

Bishop Sedu said the effort was a small yet vital attempt to help curb the spread of the virus which was infecting 50,000 people on average per day and killing around 1,400.

With a religious approach, I believe all religious people will believe and want to be vaccinated

Agus Samsudin, chairman of the Muhammadiyah Covid-19 Command Center, said all religions must work together to help the government during such desperate times.

Sikka district chief Fransiskus Roberto Diogo said that of the 323,000 people in his locality, only 10 percent have been vaccinated, well below the national average of 15 percent.

He said the district was the highest contributor to new cases in East Nusa Tenggara province in recent days.

The role of religious leaders is very important in preventing things from getting worse, including the successful implementation of vaccinations, especially in convincing people still hesitant about being vaccinated, he said.
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“With a religious approach, I believe all religious people will believe and want to be vaccinated," he said, adding that at least 70 percent of the population needed to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

Indonesia has decided to extend a lockdown imposed in various regions last month until Aug. 9.

It was originally only applied in Java and Bali but has now been applied elsewhere in 240 districts in 33 provinces, including Sikka.

As of Aug. 3, Indonesia had recorded 3,496,700 coronavirus cases and 98,889 deaths.

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