COTABATO CITY: Religious leaders from different faiths gathered at the North Cotabato provincial capitol grounds Saturday expressing their all-out support to Governor Nancy Catamco in the fight against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). Catamco invited the leaders of various religious groups in the province as she created an ad hoc committee on religious affairs to come up with new normal policies and guidelines on church-related activities and gatherings amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The religious leaders automatically became committee members who will be consulted on matters about religions in the province. Mass gatherings, including religious masses and church activities, have been suspended since the national and provincial governments implemented the enhanced community quarantine amid the outbreak of the disease. Catamco wanted to hear first from the religious leaders and pastors on their views on the possible resumption of mass gathering of religious-related events. She believed that spirituality is among the most essential in their fight against Covid-19. “This pandemic has made us realize the gift of life. It teaches us our purpose as children of God to do good and help each other,” she added during the ad hoc committee meeting. The religious ministers who are now recognized by the provincial government as “front-liners” have manifested support in advocating the implementation of safe physical distancing, washing of hands and decontamination of worship venues. “Thank you, governor, for recognizing spirituality as an integral part of this campaign and tapping us to take part in this advocacy,” Pastor Cromwell Steve Rabaya III of Kidapawan United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). He said religious worship can help ease up stress among people who were held at home due to quarantine protocols. A representative of Iglesia ni Cristo told Catamco that his group is fully committed to implementing safe physical distancing with the issuance of color-coded cards with corresponding serial numbers on the agreed additional worship service schedules. Also present during the meeting were Roman Catholic priest Jun Balatero of the Kidapawan Diocese, Bishop Rudy Juan of the Methodist Church, representatives from the Ulama League of North Cotabato, Christian and Missionary Alliance Churches of the Philippines, Assemblies of God, Iglesia Filipina Independiente and the UCCP–Cotabato. Also present were representatives from the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Wesleyan Church, United Pentecostal Church, Church of God International, Baptist Church, Victory Church of North Cotabato, Jesus is Lord, Jesus Miracle Crusade, River of God and the United Evangelical Assembly. It was the first time that all religious groups were united in supporting the provincial government in its program for the people of the province, this time the efforts to save North Cotabateños from the virus.
(PNA/Edwin Fernandez/ SRNY/ RSP)