Malaysian Catholics in the dark over reopening of churches – dpa international


Sanitiser and sign-in notebook at the entrance to a Kuala Lumpur Catholic church (Simon Roughneen)

Sanitiser and sign-in notebook at the entrance to a Kuala Lumpur Catholic church (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Catholic bishops said on Friday that they have not been informed by the government about proposals to allow some non-Muslim places of worship to reopen for ceremonies next month.

Defence minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Thursday that 174 churches and temples will be permitted from June 10 to allow up to 30 Malaysian worshippers attend services, as part of a relaxation of curbs imposed in March to stop the spread of Covid-19.

A Friday statement by the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur said that it had “received no further news apart from what was released to the public” and that it did not know which churches could be reopened on June 10.

Religion and ethnicity overlap in Malaysia, where around 60 per cent of the population is Muslim and Malay. Around 10 per cent of Malaysia’s 32 million people are Christians of various denominations, with Buddhists, many of them of Chinese descent, making up roughly 20 per cent.

Malaysia ended nearly two months of strictly-enforced lockdown on May 4, allowing most business to reopen and restaurants to cater to in-house diners.

The government announced on May 14 that some mosques could reopen for Friday Islamic prayers the following day.

Some restrictions, such as on long-distance domestic journeys, have been extended to June 9.

The government has threatened to arrest people who try to travel to home towns to celebrate this weekend’s Eid-al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

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