A United Front
Religious Leaders Speak on Unity to Fight COVID-19
Comments from Religious Leaders in Sri Lanka during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Religious leaders of the Catholic, Christian, Hindu and Islam faiths have emphasized that the cohesive support rendered to the regulations issued by the government and the health authorities on quarantining will help to defeat Covid-19.
The controversial virus COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China sometime in December 2019. Now the virus has rapidly spread to 208 countries across the world while the number of deaths reported is nearly 75,000 as at 8th April 2020. Further, the WHO Coronavirus dashboard also records 1.32 million people currently affected by the virus. While the situation in China is somewhat mitigated, the epicentre of the virus has moved to Europe and the US.
Covid-19 spread throughout the world very fast within the past three months. The threat to Sri Lanka is also very high, with 180 patients identified as at now according to official statistics. Health authorities point out that the infection has spread to this extent due to the careless actions of some individuals.
In this backdrop, religious leaders point out that all people have an unavoidable responsibility for understanding their duty and acting accordingly. They also said that people can protect themselves as well as the others if they follow the proper instructions and protocols dictated by leading national and international health authorities.
Buddhist monks are seen chanting the Rathana Sutta at the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy to invoke blessings upon the people of the country. The Rathana Sutta was first chanted in Visalia, a city in ancient India during the time of Lord Buddha, to alleviate the three fears of diseases, famine and demonic possession. While Buddhists admire this action, Colombo Archbishop Rev. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith also highly commended the work of the Buddhist monks at this juncture.
The chief priest of the sacred Sripada temple, chief Sangha Nayaka Thero of Sabaragamuwa Province, chief incumbent of the ancient temple of Pelmadulla and Chancellor of Uva-Wellassa University Ven. Bengamuwe Dhammadinna Thero all said that chanting of Rathana Sutta would start at the Buddhist centre of Nallathanni on Sripada road on 26th March 2020.
“As a nation and as citizens of this country, we must perform our duty as much as possible,” said Rev. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith. “The main duty of Christians is to follow the instructions of the authorities and help the country and the people to paddle through this difficult moment. I urge all Catholics to extend their fullest corporation.” Conducting mass on Sunday, March 22, Rev. Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith said that it was wrong to play with the lives of the people by engaging in activities that could spread the virus. The Sunday Mass was conducted live in Sinhala, Tamil and English at the Bishop’s House in Colombo and electronic media broadcast the service as other churches did not conduct regular Sunday mass to help avoid gatherings. Further, all other religious programmes and meetings at Catholic and Christian churches have been suspended.
All schools, religious schools and nurseries conducted by Catholic and Christian councils were also closed. All spiritual, religious and secular activities that were planned to be held during Easter have also been temporarily suspended. Rev. Cardinal Ranjith urged all Catholic families to unite in prayer daily at home for the health and security of the people of Sri Lanka and the world although they cannot pray at the church during this period.
Bishop Asiri Perera, the President of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka, addressed the Methodist community on March 15 and urged them to perform their duty as citizens by facing the emergency correctly. The Diocese of Colombo (Anglican Church of Ceylon) also issued an exclusive statement urging followers to suspend common masses at churches and to pray at home. “Keep the church open for those who wish to pray there. However, keep in mind that visiting the church in groups is inappropriate. Our priests will help you spiritually whenever necessary. We highlight that you are required to abide with the additional health precautions prescribed by the public health authorities,” said Colombo Bishop Thiloraj Kanagasabei and Kurunegala Bishop Keerthithsiri Fernando of Church of Ceylon in the joint statement.
We enquired about the precautions followed the Muslim community of Sri Lanka in the present context. Sheik of the mosque in Periyamulla, Negambo, Abdulla Rahman said that All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, the organization of the Muslim clerics together with Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs had instructed all mosques island-wide to suspend religious activities temporarily. Further, Sheik Rahman urged Muslims to read the Quran, pray and fast staying at home for the safety of all Sri Lankans and the world at this crucial moment.
“The uncertain situation in the country now, it is not conducive for the Hindus to gather for mass offerings. Stay at home, meditate and pray for the security of the people of Sri Lanka and the world,” urged three leading Hindu priests issuing a joint statement. The statement issued by Nallai Adeenamudalwar Srila Sri Somasundara Gnanasambanthan Paramacharya Swamihal, Penkaiillei Adeenamudalwar Shivathiru Ahthiyar Adhikalar and Meyikandar Adeenamudalwar Pawaththiru Umawathi Shivam Adhikalar urged the Hindu community including priests to stay at home engaging in spiritual activities to extend fullest corporation to the actions of the authorities to save Sri Lanka from the spread of Covid-19.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Sri Lanka called on all Catholics to observe March 22 as a day of fasting and prayer, continue to recite the prayer to Our Lady and recite the Hail Mary three times, after the Post Communion prayer during the celebration of all Holy Masses, seeking the Blessed Mother, Mary to intercede with God to prevent, protect and heal all concerned in our country and all other countries and to rid the world of this devastating virus.