Father Albertus Gatot of St. John Baptist Parish in Ciamis, Bandung Diocese, conducts a funeral service for a Covid-19 victim on July 22. (Photo supplied)
Indonesia’s top Protestant ecumenical organization has called on its members to convert facilities owned by their churches into Covid-19 self-isolation centers.
The move has been welcomed by the government as it battles an upsurge in infections that has overwhelmed hospitals and made the country Asia’s Covid-19 epicenter.
"We are encouraging churches to convert facilities into self-isolation centers to ease the pressure on hospitals," Reverend Gomar Gultom, chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI), said on July 29.
Too many people were now going without care and dying at home because of the strain on medical services, he said.
He said the management of possibly hundreds of such facilities will be in conjunction with local authorities "so that if an emergency occurs, it can still be handled."
Gultom said churches have the same goals as the government in tackling Covid-19 — suppressing the spread of the virus, building public awareness to obey health regulations and solving economic problems faced by affected communities.
It's time for us to act together with concrete actions that build solidarity
Reverend Jacky Manuputty, the PGI’s general secretary, said several churches in Jakarta and South Sulawesi are already being used as places for self-isolation but the PGI wants to extend this elsewhere.
He said solidarity among religious institutions is very important to assist government efforts against this very grave threat.
The PGI's move was enthusiastically welcomed by Muhammad Mahfud MD, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.
"It's time for us to act together with concrete actions that build solidarity," he said, adding that details about who would be admitted to these centers and the care given to them would be revealed later.
He affirmed the importance of religious organizations and hoped that religious leaders would continue to provide awareness about health protocols.
"Covid is with us and will be for some time yet, so government cooperation with religious organizations is crucial," he said.
The PGI's move follows similar pledges from other religious groups, including Catholics.
In Yogyakarta, the Sisters of Charity of St. Charles Borromeo have converted their formation house, which can accommodate 164 patients, into a self-isolation center that will start operating on Aug. 1.
Meanwhile, Jakarta Archdiocese has converted its Samadi pastoral center and has 90 nuns, priests and volunteers looking after around 60 patients.
Indonesia's daily infections have exceeded 40,000 in recent weeks, while the daily death toll on July 29 was over 1,500.
The total number of cases has reached 3.28 million and the number of deaths recorded nationwide is 89,000.