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Lahore archbishop calls for a subdued Ramadan

Health official warns that Covid-19 could spread rapidly in Pakistan during the Muslim holy month

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Lahore archbishop calls for a subdued Ramadan

Muhammad Asim Makhdoom (right) with Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore (center) at a press conference at the bishop’s house on April 25. (Photo: Kamran Chaudhry/UCA News)

Archbishop Sebastian Shaw and clerics in Lahore have urged Muslims to pray indoors during Ramadan amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“In order to save your faith, all prayers should be conducted in houses. We request the government ensure the implementation of the lockdown. Or else who will be responsible for the loss of precious lives. May God make Ramadan a month of blessings and joy for all of us,” he said in a press conference at the bishop's house on April 25.

Muhammad Asim Makhdoom, chairman of the board of Kul Masalik Ulema, and another Muslim cleric also attended the event.

“Copies of the bishop’s message were posted [by mail] to 4,000 mosques and madrasas [Islamic seminaries] in the city. Many won’t know the bishop personally but respect calls from the head of the Church in Lahore. Some 80 clerics of our commission joined his commission to foster interfaith harmony,” said Makhdoom, who is also a member of the Catholic bishops' National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism.

“A concrete policy is needed as the virus continues to spread. The government is going soft as traders demand the opening of businesses to earn profit in the holy month,” he added, referring to the hike in prices of food including vegetables and fruits last week.

The archbishop's message came in the wake of a survey conducted by the Pattan Development Organisation that showed that more than 80 percent of mosques in Punjab and the federal capital did not implement the agreement reached between the government and ulema regarding the first Taraweeh (night prayers) congregations on April 24. 

The research was based on observance of 194 mosques in 15 cities and towns. People were found praying on pavements and roads in 96 percent of the mosques, while 89 percent of the worshipers did not wear face masks, the report stated.

According to the study, the worshipers did not maintain a six-feet distance and were found performing ablutions in 72 percent and 69 percent of the observed mosques. In more than two-thirds of the mosques, children were also found alongside their elders.

As the tally of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Pakistan surged past 13,900 with 292 deaths, Zafar Mirza, special assistant to the prime minister on health, warned that the disease could rapidly spread during the holy month.

“The trend observed on the first day of Ramadan was not encouraging at all. Traditionally a rush is observed at shops at the time of iftar. The situation on Saturday evening was no different from that of past years. I request the masses that they should change their routine of iftar, sehar and visiting mosques,” he said in a news conference at the weekend.

Archbishop Joseph Arshad, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan, said in a statement that Pakistan was being affected by public carelessness. "We should all join efforts to evade the pandemic and help combat hunger, depression and joblessness,” he said. 

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