Christian devotees stand in circles marked on the ground to maintain social distancing as they hold palm branches to celebrate a Palm Sunday service in Islamabad on April 5. (Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP)
Bishops and pastors have met Pakistan’s minority affairs minister in Lahore to discuss measures to stem the transmission of Covid-19.
“We have voluntarily agreed with all our bishops, pastors and moderators that we will not open churches unless we get rid of the plague,” said minister Ejaz Aslam in a video statement after the April 8 meeting. “It is a unanimous decision by all our bishops.”
The minister also requested people to refrain from gathering on rooftops to offer prayers. “The government has banned people from such gatherings. We should stay at homes and pray that we win the battle against this global pandemic,” Aslam added.
His comments came as people from both majority and minority communities were spotted praying on their rooftops in several Pakistani cities in violation of Section 144, which bars the assembly of more than four people.
Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore requested the Catholic community to pray and follow the instructions from the government. “Following the Bible, we have to obey our government and their directives,” he said.
Keeping in mind the importance of prayer services during Holy Week and especially on Good Friday, Lahore police chief Zulfiqar Hameed held a meeting with Christian leaders and appreciated their cooperation in having online prayer services.
The police chief requested minority leaders to avoid all gatherings and the use of loudspeakers on Good Friday and other special days.
“Please consider the sensitivity of the pandemic situation and educate the communities. Social distancing is the only solution to prevent the spread of the global virus,” Hameed said. “We will try to broadcast the main services through state-run Pakistan Television.”
As of April 8, the number of infected people in Pakistan had risen to 4,322 with 63 deaths, according to government data.