Christians and Muslims shut churches and mosques to pray at home. Medical staff cheered for a minute. Lebanon has many doctors but few medical facilities. The poor (70 per cent of the population) and two million Syrian and Palestinian refugees are at risk. Curfew from 7pm to 5am. Lebanese abroad (especially in Africa) kept away for fear of infections. Students in Europe are unable to receive money from banks. Hezbollah leader makes historic speech, slamming banks for clinging onto money that could become waste paper as a result of the world crisis.
Three French and one Iraqi, who disappeared on January 20. France expresses "gratitude" to the Iraqi authorities for contributing to the release. No confirmation of payment of a ransom. Due to the coronavirus emergency, Macron withdraws French troops from the country.
About 80-90 per cent of sanitation workers are Christian as few other jobs are available to them. The government does not provide them with the safety gear needed to do their work. Women work barefoot. Sanitation workers do not use gloves to empty sewers or manholes. They deserve as much respect asd doctors and paramedical staff. Doctors in Punjab refuse to work for lack of protective measures.
Fear of a coronavirus epidemic in the country worries international observers. Healthcare facilities are collapsing and unable to offer adequate care. Houthi and Saudi-led Arab coalition in favor of a ceasefire, but expect practical implementation on the ground.
At first radical Muslims claimed that the epidemic was a sign of Allah's anger and punishment. Now they claim the virus is a test of faith. If “such characters, such obscurantists with dark ideas, intervene and interfere in such sensitive issues with impunity it is because the state does not do its duty, that of protecting people.”
For Nagi el-Khoury, the global emergency is a call to unity and prayer. Some dioceses will ring the bells. The Adyan Foundation invites all the faithful to join the celebrations and light a candle on the balcony. A special thought for doctors, nurses and paramedics.
The siege is still underway in the Shorbazar neighborhood. Sikhs are a small religious minority of just 300 families in Afghanistan. The Taliban deny all responsibility. The stalemate in leadership undermining prospects for peace. US State Department cuts aid.
Bishop Hinder speaks about the possible impact of the COVID-19 virus on a country battered by five years of war, with no health facilities to stem the epidemic. The war is making many young people "sad and depressed”; more than half are afraid of "playing outdoors".
On Flores Island, Semana Santa events have been cancelled. Health takes priority over traditions. The Indonesian government is struggling to cope with the crisis. In Jakarta Catholics hand out soup and other food to the needy.
The Great Mosque of Paris is shut. All French mosques are urged to close. The Muslim Brotherhood is against this. Deemed a "punishment" against unbelievers, the outbreak is now a "test" to purify Muslims. Solidarity is growing irrespective of race, religion and nationality. This is an opportunity to pray for all humanity. The chairman of the French Board of Imams speaks out.
Friday communal prayers have been cancelled in many Mideast countries. The courtyard around the Kaaba in Makkah is empty. Istanbul’s Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock, and Casablanca’s Hassan II Mosque are closed. Some however have braved the epidemic, filling mosques in Karachi.
The ceremony took place this morning amid precautions against the coronavirus. Church leaders have been criticised for ignoring guidelines and not showing empathy towards a frightened population. An Islamic meeting was cancelled yesterday. Archbishop Olla notes that the number of participants was reduced from 7,000 to 1,500.
The supreme leader will pardon many prisoners already on temporary release. Almost half of security-related prisoners will be pardoned, judiciary spokesman said. Iran has more than 189,000 people in jail. Three inmates join Nasrin Sotoudeh’s hunger strike.
As the country enters its tenth year of civil war, the situation remains critical. Hospitals are on their knees, hundreds of thousands of people are dead, and new humanitarian emergencies unfold. Fr Georges, a Blue Marist, a month ago thought that the liberation of Aleppo would bring peace. That illusion vanished amid “asphyxiating desperation”. The West fights jihadists at home but supports them in Syria. Catholics offer an example of openness and solidarity.
Prayers are offered for everyone affected by the contagion. Church is grateful towards the authorities and medical personnel. The country has reported 227 cases so far, with 19 deaths. Restrictions on internal movements and foreign arrivals have been imposed. Church activities have been limited whilst Mass is available online. Meanwhile, another danger looms: dengue fever.