Hundreds of thousands of Muslims across East Java attended a Nisfu Syaban mass prayer on Wednesday through their smartphones and televisions, making the event one of the largest online religious gatherings to be held amid the COVID-19 outbreak.Nisfu Syaban refers to the 15th day of the Syaban month, the eighth month on the Islamic calendar, which falls before the holy fasting month of Ramadan. Most Muslims, especially followers of the country’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), believe that God will answer people’s prayers on that day.The one-hour mass prayer was led by 19 clerics from the East Java branch of NU in Surabaya as well as Lirboyo Islamic boarding school in Kediri. The number 19 was chosen to symbolize the outbreak of COVID-19. The mass prayer, sponsored by the East Java administration, was also aired by 14 local television channels.“This is how we try to hold religious activities during the outbreak. We have told our followers across the province to attend the event from their respective homes,” the head of NU’s East Java branch, Marzuki Mustamar, said.East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa, who attended the mass prayer from her office at Grahadi Building in Surabaya, called on Muslims in East Java to pray together for the country amid the outbreak.”May God lift the pandemic from this country. When a prayer is chanted by thousands or even millions, we hope God will soon answer our prayer,” she said.Read also: Religion and COVID-19 mitigationNU advisory body had Miftahul Akhyar said Muslims could obey the government’s instruction on physical distancing without abandoning religious activities thanks to the live streaming of mass prayer.He also urged the government to reveal a more detailed map of the disease’s spread and announce confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases more transparently.The way the government handled the outbreak, Mifathul said, had created confusion and uncertainty among Muslims, as health authorities classified a regency with at least one confirmed case as a COVID-19 red zone.“Therefore, people in a village can decide whether it’s safe for them to hold mass prayer at mosques. We believe it’s haram [forbidden] for us to hold mass prayer if it can harm other lives,” he went on to say. (kuk)Topics : They prayed to God for the outbreak to end soon.Read also: COVID-19: Indonesian churches alter Good Friday services to avoid spreading virusAccording to the event organizer, more than 100,000 people across the province joined the live streaming of the event, which was dubbed the first-ever online mass prayer to be held by the NU, on the organization’s official YouTube and Instagram accounts.The figure does not include thousands of others watching the event via the social media accounts of the East Java administration as well as Lirboyo boarding school.
Region 9 Floods…several areas under waterWater levels continue to rise in several parts of Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo), and the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), along with the Ministries of Public Health and Public Infrastructure and the Regional Democratic Council (RDC), is currently assessing flood-affected communities while monitoring the region’s level of preparedness.A team of high-level officials visited Karasabai in the South Pakaraimas on Saturday and evaluated the main access roads and the level of water at the Ireng and Takutu Rivers.Acting Director-General of the CDC, Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig, said it was observed that Central Karasabai and its environs are being threatened, with some of the villages having been cut off because of the level at which the bridges have submerged.Craig said the community of Aishalton is similarly impacted, and in other areas of the Deep South, the bridges are under water and accessing most of the communities is difficult.An assessment was also conducted in and around Central Rupununi, particularly in Lethem, where it was observed that the water level in the Takutu River has risen and residents in close proximity to the Tabatinga Creek are affected.Craig explained that several homes are under water, and thus far, two families have been relocated — one group is staying with family members, and the other is at a temporary shelter that was established by the Mayor and Town Council.“The CDC is continuing to work closely with the RDC to establish a needs list. What we have observed is that we need to have communication at all times with all of the communities in the event that the water level increases. We will need to communicate to determine what level of supplies they would need. We will also need to continue to check with the hospital, health post and health centres to ensure they have the maximum of supplies to deal with any water-related type of illnesses,” Craig said.The Director-General further noted that the CDC would continue to work with the RDC to determine if there would be need for long-term shelters, supplies, beddings, sheets, cots, food and cleaning agents.He also commended the RDC and the Council for responding promptly to the situation. He added that the main aim of the visit is to locate deficiencies in the region’s preparedness and response capability, and work towards enhancing those deficiencies.Over the past week, heavy rains have caused flooding in the South Pakaraimas, Deep South, and Central Rupununi areas. Alternative routes between communities from Katoonarib to Karaudarnauwa have been identified so that residents and vehicles can safely travel to their destinations.Annually, during the dry season, Rupununi suffers from drought, but that has been mitigated with the construction of reservoirs and the drilling of several wells. In the rainy season, waters from the mountains in the highland region enter creeks and streams, which lead to the rivers being unable to accommodate the large volume of water.Some rivers overflow their banks, which ultimately leads to the flooding of some villages and large swathes of savannah lands.