While most agreed that restrictions on bars and restaurants would be justified as a safety measure, exceptions could have been made for churches on Christmas eve and New Year’s eve.
Christian religious leaders have supported the state government’s decision to impose a night curfew from Tuesday to January 5. Community leaders in the city had already decided not to hold night services in churches on Christmas and New Year’s eve since the threat of the Covid-19 virus persists.
Some members of the community, however, felt that the spirit of Christmas was dampened by the night curfew. While most agreed that restrictions on bars and restaurants would be justified as a safety measure, exceptions could have been made for churches on Christmas eve and New Year’s eve.
Father Frazer Mascarenhas, the parish priest at St Peter’s Church, Bandra, said that following the Cardinal’s decision, all churches in the city had agreed to hold their services early in the evening. “About a week ago, the Cardinal’s decision was communicated to us. The Cardinal had said that there should be nothing after 9 pm. On Christmas we will have our services earlier in the evening and everyone will be home by 10 pm. Much of our programmes will be held online and very few people will attend the services in the church by invitation. We fully support the decision of the government. On Christmas, we have people of all faiths visiting our church. It’s dangerous at this time, especially with this new strain of the virus from the UK.”
He said that even for the services held earlier in the evening on Christmas and New Year’s eve, the maximum number of people allowed to attend will be 200, that is one-fourth the capacity of the church.
President of Indian Christian Voice Dr Abraham Mathai said, “All the church leaders had agreed not to hold any night services in churches for Christmas, which would be in the interest of the society. If people are allowed to attend night services it would have encouraged them to socialise. This is the need of the hour and we support it. We should not be the reason for the spike in (Covid-19) numbers.”
Social activist Nicholas Almeida, however, said that since many churches have open spaces and auditoriums, the night curfew was not required. He said, “Churches, in any case, did not allow more than 200 people at a time and had been following all safety protocols laid down by the government. This decision was taken last minute. The government should have planned better.”
IT professional Regan Rodricks felt the government’s decision was “a bit excessive”. “Christians are a minority and only a handful of people would have been out on Christmas. The government could have held this decision back. Churches are, in any case, functioning with a lot of restrictions under Covid safety protocols and the BMC also keeps a check on them. I think this was completely unnecessary,” said Rodricks, a resident of Borivali.
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