The return of the believers to the houses of worship

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The return of the believers to the houses of worship

By Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader

It was not something easy for believers to learn that with the beginning of March churches, mosques and other houses of worship would be closed until further notice, which is similar to the measures taken towards private and public facilities throughout the world. There were also common denominators among countries and cities that maintain activities throughout day time and night with the smallest villages in remote countries.

The world has been infected with Corona virus. Officials throughout the world had to take precautionary measures to protect human health and life. The houses of worship were closed throughout the world and St Peter’s Square, in the Vatican, was devoid of believers who used to arrive regularly and on daily basis. The doors of both the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of the Nativity as well as of Alaqsa Mosque and of the Grand Mosque in Mecca were closed. Furthermore, churches and mosques were closed in Jordan while the sincere worshipers yearned to return to places of worship so that they might implore the Lord to heal the world from this pandemic.

What aggravated the impact of the closures on the worshipers in the past months was the coincidence of major feasts. The Christians celebrated Easter while the doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and their local churches were closed and empty. It was not easy for the Muslim brethren to celebrate Eid al-Fitr while being locked down watching what is posted on media outlets. Therefore, it is a critical and difficult stage for all the people of the world.

While it was announced that the doors of places of worship will be reopened in the world, and after the Jordanian government announced that the churches and mosques will be reopened shortly in our Kingdom, we say:

First: The faithful did not stop praying in the past months, and the role of social media was outstanding in transmitting prayers and supplications from churches and mosques. The saying, “my house is my church” and “my house is my mosque” became prevalent everywhere. This period has rather intensified the people’s desire to worship the Lord, because it was a difficult period. It is well-known that when people go through crises--particularly with regards to what jeopardizes their safety and health as well the safety and health of their children--they resort more than ever to God imploring protection of their families.

Second: Returning to houses of worship does not mean that the epidemic has ended. This fact was reported by the Ministry of Health which alerted citizens that the epidemic is still persistent. Its persistence nullifies the rumors which state that the epidemic was blown out of proportion. How can one claim that the epidemic did not exist at a time when it has claimed thousands of innocent lives? Therefore, the precautionary measures that we had to undertake in our homes have to be undertaken as well in our workplaces, in our locations, as well as in houses of worship. No house of worship should be a source of disease outbreaks, therefore believers ought to abide by the guidelines and instructions that will be formally approved either by the religious authorities or health officials who do not refrain from providing advice and guidance.

Third: It is also appropriate for the believers--and as it is said in the church--"to examine one’s conscience" so as to deepen their faith, and to say, praise be to God, that we have been saved from this pandemic. We must now pay attention to our priorities, to the duty to do goodness these days, and to experience love as the disease did not threaten one group without the other. This period may be appropriate for people to redo their calculations, to reassess matters, and to put their priorities in order foremost of which being human relations based on love, honesty, integrity which are inspired from sincere worship and from returning to the house of worship.

We lastly say: We welcome again the truthful and faithful worshipers in houses of worship who abide by the instructions issued by the state, the Ministry of Awqaf, and the Council of Churches. It was not easy for the clergymen--including bishops, priests, and imams--to see empty churches and mosques at a time when we only look at the camera in order to address the believers. Today, we have a responsibility to look towards the future with steadfastness and hope, thanking the Lord for everything that has been achieved, as well as for all the efforts exerted by our country and by those responsible for managing the affairs of people in the world aimed at protecting human health, life and dignity. At the same time, we must look forward to how to cooperate more on a human level to solve the diseases afflicting the extended human family, foremost of which issues related to justice and peace, poverty and unemployment, as well as reducing rearmament and ending wars to ensure a safe life for all people living on Earth.

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