Clerics issue strict rules for accessing places of worship

Friday September 24 2021
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A procession of the clergy at Namirembe Cathedral under Namirembe Diocese in Kampala ahead of the service in 2017. PHOTO/FILE

By Shabibah Nakirigya

The Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU)has issued stringent guidelines for accessing places of worship after President Museveni gave them the all-clear on Wednesday.

Places of worship have been under lock and key for nearly four months after Uganda went into a hard lockdown at the onset of the second coronavirus wave. The first hard lockdown last March also affected places of worship, which were seen as high-risk.

President Museveni directed that places of worship can now accommodate not more than 200 people who are expected to observe standard operating procedures (Sops) such as wearing of facemasks and physical distancing. 

To this effect, the IRCU chairperson, Archbishop Stephen Samuel Kaziimba Mugalu has advised that “prayers must be short, not more than one hour.” 

To counter the small number of congregant, the IRC chairperson who also doubles as Church of Uganda Archbishop has advised that places of worship “ to have more than one service in a day.”

Speaking at the IRC offices yesterday, Archbishop Kazimba further advised that children under 12 and the vulnerable remain at home and follow the services online.

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Sheikh Ali Waiswa, the Deputy Mufti of Uganda, told the Muslim community that night prayers and getting ablution (Wudhu) at the mosque is forbidden. This, he said, should be done from home before going for prayers. 

“Muslims are supposed to perform only three prayers in the mosque. That is: the morning  prayer; lunch-time; and the evening. The last two prayers are supposed to be performed from their homes since they are in curfew time,” he said.
Sheikh added: “We are going to supervise and monitor worshiping places working together with the  government task forces to make sure that all leader are adhering  SOPs.” 

Pastor Joseph Sserwadda, an IRC member, welcomed the reopening of places of worship with a pinch of salt.
“It should have been good for the number of congregations to depend on the size of the place,” he said, adding, “Some churches have compound which can also accommodate a good number.”

Pastor Sserwadda also urged the government to come up with measures which can identify fake vaccination cards. “We encourage the government to digitalise the vaccination cards so that they have specific codes and stickers showing the genuine card issued by the government,” he said.

Background
The President reopened places of worship with strict guidelines, including limiting number of worshippers to 200, ensuring physical distancing of two metres and wearing of masks. 

No congregation for worship during the dusk-to-dawn curfew and partnering with the government to communicate and mobilise the population for vaccination and other control measures.

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