Pastoral letter to the Solomon Islands on COVID-19 from the Archbishop of Melanesia

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In recent weeks, the world was gripped by the impact of the corona virus in different countries including our own country, Solomon Islands. Last week, the World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic. Governments around the world are taking various measures to prevent the entry and spread of the virus in their respective countries.

In our beloved Solomon Islands, the relevant government authorities through the Corona Virus Steering Committee have developed measures not only to prevent the entry of the virus into our country but also to prevent the spread of the sickness if it does get onto our shores. For example it issued its third Travel Advisory on the 13 March 2020. The Church appeals to its members and all citizens of our country to strictly comply with measures outlined in the travel advisory.

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services has issued a number of brochures and posters which explains in simple terms what we should do to protect ourselves, our families and communities. These includes guidelines on personal hygiene which we must practice in our homes, workplaces and in Church and community gatherings. We must not wait for a positive case of the virus to be reported before we start practicing these healthy habits.

Living with our extended families even in Honiara and other urban centres provides an environment for the easy spread of the virus. It might helpful to encourage relatives living with working families in Honiara to consider returning to our home villages if there are no urgent reasons to be in Honiara. Having a smaller number of people living in a home should help families in Honiara practice more effective measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Church also encourages its members to avoid any unnecessary travel overseas. And if the virus does enter the country, members are kindly asked to reconsider plans to hold large gatherings and celebrations. In Honiara, Church members are kindly requested to refrain from visiting public places and gathering unless absolutely necessary. We further encouraged members to avoid travelling from one house to another unless the visit is necessary.

The ACoM will be issuing further guidelines to our parishes as what we should or should not do as far as our public worship is concerned. Members are kindly requested to show understanding should some changes be made to our worship and liturgical practices. For now I call on all Christians in Honiara to steadfastly hold our beloved country in prayer; for the victims of the virus, the scientists researching for possible cure and for cessation of the spread of the virus.

Finally, I would like to once again appeal to all ACOM members, all Christian people and friends to support the efforts of the government authorities and other stakeholders by complying with instructions and follow public health messages issued to date. I understand that as Christians we have faith, I am asking us all to express our faith by taking full responsibility to work together with the Government, not only for our personal health but also for our families, communities and our nation of Solomon Islands.

The Most Rev. Leonard Dawea, 24 March 2020