New ways for religions to worship one God
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - June 1, 2020 - 12:00am

A church in Berlin has opened its doors to Muslims unable to fit into their mosque under new social distancing rules, BBC reported.

Religious services resumed in Germany on May 4 but worshippers must keep apart 1.5 meters (5 feet). So the Dar Assalam mosque in Neukölln district could only hold a fraction of its congregation. But the Martha Lutheran church in Kreuzberg offered help by hosting Friday prayers at the end of Ramadan.

On the month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex from dawn to dusk. Normally families and friends would gather to break their fast and attend communal prayers. But in Berlin, as in countries across the world, pandemic has disrupted this year's Eid'l Fit'r celebration to end the fast.

"It is a great sign and it brings joy in Ramadan and joy amid this crisis," the mosque's imam told Reuters. "This pandemic has made us a community. Crises bring people together."

"It was a strange feeling because of the musical instruments, the pictures," mosque congregationist Samer Hamdoun said, noting the contrast to Islamic worship. "But when you look, when you forget the small details, this is the house of God in the end."

The church's pastor took part in the service. "I gave a speech in German," said Monika Matthias. "And during prayer, I could only say yes, yes, yes, because we have the same concerns and we want to learn from you. And it is beautiful to feel that way about each other."

In a racist attack last Feb. nine persons, mostly Muslim, were slain in the city of Hanau. On Eid'l Fit'r, German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier pledged renewed effort against racial hatred, as "protecting Muslims is the duty not just of the state but every man."

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In Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao that festive day, however, a ten-year old girl and her seven-year old brother were killed when an 81-mm mortar exploded inside their house in Barangay Kitango.

Town administrator Musib Tan said the victims were children of the town hall technician. The youngsters were watching TV when the blast occurred, Tan said. Their mother critically was wounded, as were four hospitalized neighbors, one a boy aged 5. Ten more were treated for minor cuts.

The military, according to Tan, claimed it was impossible for them to err in target coordinates as mortars are aimed on enemy positions, not civilians. “We will have to check this with the brigade because there were no operations today," said Maj. Gen. Diosdado Carreon, commander of the Army 6th Infantry Division.

Before the explosion, Tan said, gunfire could be heard in nearby Barangay Illian where the Dawlah Islamiya and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters have been harassing for a week the 57th Infantry Battalion. Four military detachments were fired at day and night, and a homemade bomb was planted in the police station in adjacent Datu Salibo town.

"The victims, like most of us that day, were in celebratory mood," said Naguib Sinarimbo, local government minister of the Bangsamoro Region. "Eid is the biggest, most honored festivity in Islam. Those children, like ours, were celebrating what could have been their first completion of the fast -- yet ending in tragedy."

Regional executive secretary Abdulraof Macacua said the yougsters died from mortar shell "at a time when the whole world's concern is to stay safe from COVID-19." They were "innocents who died in the hands of experts, experienced persons who knew what they were doing". The shelling was a breach of ceasefire and agreements on outbreaks of hostilities, added Macacua, former chief of staff of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that settled peace with the government.

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Drive-up Mass is evolving in the Catholic world.

In late March at St. Monica Church in Oklahoma City, parishioners attended Sunday service seated not on the pews but inside their cars. Reverend Stephen Hamilton celebrated outdoor Mass from a makeshift altar at the expansive paved parking in front of the church. Attendees in their Sunday best prayed and sang while tuned in to the Liturgy on their vehicle radio. The Oklahoman on Mar. 23 reported the priest estimating about 700 Mass goers, "including many young families with children." The Mass had six altar servers, an associate priest and a deacon.

Never one to be late to church, Darrel Waggoner arrived more than an hour early so he could get a good space close to the house of worship's front doors. "I thought it was real nice," he said afterward. "It brought a feeling of comfort in this time of the unknown."

Fr. Stephen came up with the special Mass as a way to bring his parish together. Yet he complied with Archbishop Paul Coakley's suspension of public Mass throughout the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City to prevent the spread of C-19. "The highest form of our worship is the Mass, especially on the Lord's day," he explained his creative recreation of normalcy. "My hope is they somehow found comfort." The 10:30 a.m. hour-long Mass was in English; another held at 1 p.m. in Spanish was for Hispanic regulars; both were live-streamed on YouTube. (Photos in https://oklahoman.com/article/5658337/coronavirus-in-oklahoma-priests-drive-up-idea-draws-large-crowd-to-sacred-service)

Catholics in the town of Chalons-en-Champagne, eastern France attended a similar drive-up Mass on May 17, Reuters reported. It was the first such Eucharistic celebration in the country since the start of the anti-pandemic lockdown eight weeks earlier.

A crucifix prominently was displayed. Priests in white robes and wearing black facemasks held a procession through the parking lot, as a hymn played and cars honked their horns. Bishop Francois Touvet stood on a podium up front as he led the service. Priests later gave out Communion wafers to the faithful as they sat in their cars.

“(Lockdown) was a deprivation for Catholics, as it was for other religions, not being able to gather in our places of worship... We very quickly came up with this formula of drive-in Mass,” Touvet said. (Video: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-france-drive-in-ma/french-catholics-celebrate-mass-in-parking-lot-idUSKBN22T0M7) Similar services have been held in Poland.

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Gratitude to the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines for P1 billion in C-19 pandemic response and relief since March. The whopping donation came in various forms. Medical supplies, especially personal protective equipment for frontline hospital workers, were distributed nationwide. Groceries were handed out weekly in slums in Luzon. A feeding program, Meals on Wheels, was deployed daily for indigents. Millions of pesos in supermarket gift checks were turned over to Project Ugnayan of the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation.

Majority-led by Henry Sy Jr. and Robert Coyiuto Jr., NGCP is the power transmitter from generators to distributors and electric cooperatives. Its contributions to ease the health crisis are among the first and largest. Staffs have been working fulltime for the NGCP charities.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

My book "Exposés: Investigative Reporting for Clean Government" is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Expos%C3%A9s-Investigative-Reporting-Clean-Government-ebook/dp/B00EPX01BG

Gotcha archives: www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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