Dubai: The St Andrew's Church in Abu Dhabi and 10 churches in Sharjah are being closed in a step to stop the spread of coronavirus, it was announced on Wednesday.
St Andrew’s Church in Abu Dhabi said it would temporarily close its compound to worshippers from Thursday onwards in support of UAE Government efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Rev Canon Andy Thompson, Senior Chaplain of St Andrew's Church in Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News, “We took this decision as hundreds and hundreds of worshippers come to the church every week - St Andrew’s Church is home to over 60 congregations. We need to do whatever it takes to support the Government in its efforts to contain the spread of the virus.”
All church services in Sharjah will also be suspended from March 12 onwards as part of the UAE government’s efforts to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The closure was conveyed in a memorandum sent by the Ruler’s Office on Wednesday to all 10 churches in Sharjah, including St. Michael’s Catholic Church, St. Gregorios Orthodox Church, St. Martin's Anglican Church, St Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Orthodox Parish, St Mary's Jacobite Syrian Cathedral, Sharjah Union Church, Russian Orthodox Church, Mar Thoma Parish, Virgin Mary & St Philopateer Coptic Orthodox Parish, and Sharjah Worship Center.
All churches are located in Sharjah’s Al Yarmook area and the usual crowd from Friday to Sunday can reach over 100,000 people, according to Edwin Maria Arasu, Director -His Highness Special Projects, who signed the memorandum.
Arasu, who is also the Liturgy coordinator at St Michael’s Church, told Gulf News: “The UAE government has announced the closure of all schools and we have suspended two weeks ago all catechism classes but the crowd is still the same on weekends.”“We have to support the government’s efforts in stopping the spread of the disease. The closure of churches is a precautionary measure and a directive by Abdullah bin Mohamed Al Qassimi, manager of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs,” Arasu added.
On its Facebook page, St Andrew's Church earlier said, “The decision has been made to temporarily close the St Andrew’s Church compound. This is not a decision that’s been taken lightly.”
A message by Rev Thompson said, “We have a duty of care for all of these groups and we take this responsibility seriously. Against the backdrop of schools, universities and conferences being closed down in the UAE, we have decided to voluntarily close down as we cannot meet the standards required to keep people safe.
“The UAE government is committed to containing the spread of COVID-19 and we join them in their desire to ensure that their country is safe. Following advice, we will close down all church services and community group activities taking place in St Andrew’s compound with immediate effect from Thursday, March 12. We are following best practice set by the UAE authorities by closing St Andrew’s compound until further notice.
“As a Christian community, we regularly pray for the authorities and we seek to live out the divine imperatives of loving God and neighbour. It is in keeping with this teaching that we have taken these actions. In the meantime, we encourage Christians to keep on praying, to keep on reading scriptures and to serve the community with integrity and faith.”