Chin Churches Shouldn’t Wait for the First COVID-19 Case in Myanmar to Take More Concrete Action

Salai Van Cung Lian

A few days after a meeting of Chin State Government representatives and religious leaders last week and Churches in the capital of Chin State decided to continue to host Sunday worship services, the largest weekly religious gatherings.

Hakha Baptist Church (HBC) has issued a statement on 18 March 2019 asking its members to avoid public gathering, including family hosted the religious gathering and has also determined to close Church School for children, night worship services and many other smaller Church-related gathering.

But according to HBC statement, the Church will continue to host Sunday worship service with estimated attendees of more than 1000 people in each service until Covid-19 has been landed in Myanmar. Hakha Baptist Church is just one example of many Churches that are having worship services despite alarming news over Covid-19 around the world and Myanmar.

Although Churches are not closed for Sunday worship services, a number of major activities including trainings, workshops and awareness camps are suspended or postponed in Hakha, the capital of Chin State. But it remains questionable if banning smaller gatherings make much difference while Sunday worship services are still ongoing?

Chin Generation Revival Conference (CGRC) has postponed its major event. GGRC’s spiritual awareness event is originally planned to hold from 20-21 March 2020 which has been now postponed to 15-17 May 2020. However, there are some possibly large religious gatherings going to take place soon in Hakha, as early as 20 March 2020, including that of Sunday worship services.

The people in Hakha, the capital of Chin State, are also increasingly concern about Covid-19 believing that it will be an uncontrollable and terrible thing if it does happen, and criticizing religious leaders for not taking concrete actions.

People argue that banning other public gatherings while continue to having the largest weekly religious gathering won’t make thing much difference. Many of Churches in cities around Chin State has about more than 1000 attendees for weekly Sunday worship service.

A number of private schools also have cancelled or are planning to cancel summer school programs and regular classes in Hakha. On 16 March 2020, Amazon Private School posted on their Facebook page asking the public for feedback on whether to close summer classes, and a few days after Amazon Private School cancelled its summer classes. Similarly, Victoria Academy, a community college program, also has cancelled its regular classes, public lecture program and all other short-term programs temporarily until the end of April 2020, and is shutting the school down from 21 March 2020 to 30 April 2020. Victoria Academy, then, is going for an online office.

A regional tourist guide training, with more than 70 participants from across Chin State, held at Victoria Academy by Directorate of Hotel and Tourism, Chin State Government, is cancelled just two days before the training is completed after more than 20 days of training. And on 10 March 2020, Chin State Government also announced at Water Festival won’t be held in Chin State, including in the capital Hakha.

There are a total of 155 PUI (Person under Investigation) for Covid-19 case across the country, including 64 people in Yangon region, 32 people in Mandalay region. Among them, 151 tested negative and the test results of another 6 people haven’t been released yet. Among Covid-19 suspects, five have died but four out of five are tested negative while test result for another person is still yet to be released.

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