Sarawak churches to open under strict SOPs for holy week

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By John Isaac

CHURCHES in Sarawak are allowed to open for Holy Week starting with Palm Sunday tomorrow but with limited numbers to curb the spread of Covid-19, said Association of Churches Sarawak (ACS) chairman Archbishop Simon Poh.

He disclosed that Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) has given permission through the Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) to allow churches in the green and yellow zones to be opened with up to 50 per cent capacity with at least one meter of physical distancing.

As for churches in red and orange zones, he said they remain closed to the public but are permitted to hold services for up to a maximum of 20 assigned persons only (with or without live streaming) during the Holy Week.

Based on the Ministry of Health (MOH)’s classification, districts with more than 40 cases in a two-week period is classified as red zones, 21 to 40 cases as orange zones, one to 20 cases as yellow zones and those with no cases as green zones.

Poh also explained that the ‘assigned persons’ referred to priests or pastors and invited committee members who will be serving and assisting directly in the celebration in the church during the Holy Week.

“I am grateful to Unifor for getting the approval from SDMC to allow churches in red and orange zones to be opened for masses and services for a maximum of 20 assigned church leaders to conduct Holy Week.

“I understand that as many of our churches are actually in red and orange zones, masses and service with 20 persons are a concession to allow for Christian to celebrate Palm Sunday, the Lord’s Supper on Thursday, commemorating Jesus’s death on Good Friday, celebrating Christ’s Resurrection on Vigil and Easter Sunday.

“This is so that on our Most Holy Week, churches will not be shut and that prayers may be offered from our churches in this time of pandemic during Holy Week,” he said when contacted by Borneo Post.

Poh also pointed out that for Christians, the Holy Week is their most sacred week in the year.

“Though congregations in Churches are not allowed in red or orange zones, the designated 20 church leaders will represent us to pray and intercede before God during this sacred Holy Week for all people in Sarawak, our nation and the world during this global pandemic.

“On behalf of ACS church leaders, I take this opportunity to bring the greetings, peace and blessing of Holy Week and Easter to all Christians and people of goodwill,” he added.

He also mentioned that as stated in the administrative notice sent by Unifor on March 26 for the Holy Week, the Covid-19 Prevention and Control protocols must be strictly adhered to.

As such, he explained there will be no distribution of palms during Palm Sunday tomorrow as this means point of contact.

“For the 20 assigned persons in church, we encourage them to bring their palms to church. Our SOP (standard operating procedures) seeks to minimise the points of contact,” he added.