‘None of Us Have a Fear of Corona’: The Faithful at an Outbreak’s Center

Tablighi followers had been streaming into Gowa, the town where the Indonesian gathering was to take place, for days. The abrupt cancellation has left many of them stranded.

Nurdin Abdullah, the governor of South Sulawesi, said that all foreigners who had gathered in Gowa would be isolated in a hotel and escorted to the airport. In the meantime, Indonesians were still passing the time in tents on Thursday, reading religious texts and discussing theology with scholars.

“It’s not reckless for us to have come here and gathered in big groups,” said Ilman Murgan, a farmer. “It’s important for us to learn how to draw ourselves closer to God.”

On Thursday, another religious assembly, this one involving Catholics, took place on the island of Flores, further east in Indonesia. About 2,000 people, including nuns in starched habits, squeezed into a church to celebrate the ordination of a bishop.

The Indonesian minister of information had flown in to join the celebration. But he left after the National Disaster Mitigation Agency advised on Thursday morning that it, like other large social gatherings, should be canceled. The cardinal went ahead with the event.

Hans Jeharut, a priest who attended the four-hour ordination, said that at least 30 bishops were among the congregants. Participants’ temperatures were taken twice. There had been no bishop in the area for more than two years, Mr. Jeharut said, and canceling the celebration would have disappointed the diocese.

“The people’s euphoria has to be understood,” he said. “Yes, this was a celebration. But it was a celebration of faith.”

Muktita Suhartono contributed reporting from Bangkok and Sun Narin from Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/world/asia/coronavirus-malaysia-muslims-outbreak.html

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