Malaysian govt reopens churches on June 10, Anglicans, however, will wait until the pandemic passes

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Churches and temples may reopen for public worship on 10 June 2020 in Malaysia, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced on 21 May 2020, however the member churches of the Council of Churches of Malaysia (including the Anglican dioceses of Sarawak, Kuching and West Malaysia) will remain closed until the government’s movement control order (MCO) banning public assemblies during the Coronavirus pandemic is lifted.

On 16 March 2020, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin issued an MCO under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 and the Police Act 1967 that banned mass movements and gatherings across the country, including religious, sports, social and cultural activities. The order forbad foreign visitors from entering the country, and required Malaysians returning from abroad to undergo a health check and 14-day quarantine. The order also closed all state and private schools and all government and private enterprises not deemed essential for public health and good order.

As of 28 May 2020 the Malaysia Ministry of Health reported 7619 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus with 115 deaths. 

On 21 May 2020 Senior Minister Yaakob announced non-Muslim houses of worship would be permitted to reopen after 10 June 2020. However, a maximum of 30 people would be permitted to enter a church to worship at any one time, while children under 12 and adults over 70 were not allowed to enter. He added the permission to engage in public worship was given only to Malaysian citizens, foreign nationals would not be allowed to enter churches. Worshippers were required to wear face masks, use hand sanitzer, and maintain a six foot distance from other worshippers. Also, permission to gather would be given only for Sunday services or significant religious holidays, he told a new conference last week.

The Star reported that 99 temples, 67 churches and eight gurdwaras had registered with the government to reopen. However, the members of the Council of Churches of Malaysia will remain closed for the time being. 

In a 21 May 2020 statement CCM general secretary the Rev Hermen Shastri said: “The heads of churches of our council have decided to continue to keep churches closed until the MCO is lifted, and there is assurance from the Health Ministry that Covid-19 no longer posed a threat to the general public.”

“Whether that will be June 10 will be reviewed judiciously when the time comes.,” Dr Shastri said. “We seek to prioritise the safety of our people as our paramount spiritual duty. The current situation is still very precarious and volatile, ”