“ALL religious activities are suspended.”
This was among the guidelines under Executive Order (EO) No. 10, which places the entire Davao City under a community quarantine. The EO, signed by Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio, was released on March 15, 2020. The EO also suspended mass gatherings.
Following the released, Duterte-Carpio has encouraged religious organizations to hold their worship services online.
In response to this, the Archdiocese of Davao has suspended masses. Davao Archbishop Romullo Valles said the celebration of the Eucharist, other liturgical services and spiritual activities will be aired through DXGN 89.9 Spirit FM, the archdiocese’s radio station. A livestream will also be aired on Spirit FM’s Facebook page.
Other mega churches in the city like the Christ Commission Fellowship and Victory have also suspended services in response to the city mayor’s directive. Both urged churchgoers to tune in on to their respective online services.
Duterte-Carpio said this is being done to prevent the sudden spike in Covid-19 cases in the region.
“Dapat masabtan sa tao nga dili magtapok kay ang kagaw naa sa hangin. Ang hangin dili nimo ma-filter kung wala kay mask. (People should understand that the virus accumulates in the air. People in these crowded areas are vulnerable because of some not being able to wear a mask),” she said in a radion interview on 87.5 Davao City Disaster Radio.
However, it was observed by many that there are still religious groups who continue to gather in large groups.
On Monday, Duterte-Carpio called out Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) for continuing to hold religious services and activities. This after she recieved reports that the group has still been conducting services despite the release of EO.
“Gusto lang nako i-remind atong mga kaigsuonan sa Iglesia ni Cristo na inyong pag-ampo sa sulod sa inyong simbahan, dili makaluwas sa sakit. (I would like to remind our INC brothers and sisters that worshipping inside your church will not spare you from acquiring the disease.),” Duterte-Carpio said.
Religious groups, INC or not, who are still holding mass gatherings and religious activities must heed to the call of the city.
Religious gatherings are among the major causes of sudden spikes in Covid-19 cases in other nations. For example, in a March 15, 2020 Bloomberg report, Malaysia reported an additional of 190 cases on Sunday. Most of the cases were from a Muslim religious gathering on February 27 to March 1 attended by 16,000 people. In Brunei, Borneo Bulletin also reported that there were 40 people who were infected after attending the same gathering.
In South Korea, it was reported by the Agence France Presse (AFP) that there were 46 new cases that were linked to a Korean religious group after it did not suspend services despite the outbreak. The report also states that “more than half of South Korea’s 8,200 Covid-19 cases have been linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus.”
Based on these examples alone, it is clear why the city has issued guidelines on the suspension of religious activities.
While certain religious groups may find it hard to follow the guidelines of the city, they have to understand that what the city is doing is for the safety of not only Davao City but the region as well.
Some members of INC have commented in the Facebook post of SunStar Davao on the mayor’s pronouncement that they are abiding with the guidelines set by the city on mass gatherings like temperature checks and disinfection. However, with one positive case in Davao Region, things are different now.
When the city says suspend your religious activities to prevent the spread of the disease, you follow. The coronavirus has shown that it can be unpredictable. Therefore, any measures implemented to prevent its spread must be followed.
This is not an attack on their faith. This is for the protection of everyone living here. They can still practice their faith at the safety of their homes.