“Endangering lives by gathering not an act of worship”: Religious Leaders in Mauritius

Logo of the Council of Religions (CoR) in Mauritius.

In the wake of a surge in reported cases of COVID-19 in Mauritius, religious leaders in the Indian Ocean Island nation have underscored the need to adhere to government guidelines prohibiting gatherings.

In their statement circulated Tuesday, March 16, the religious leaders under the auspices of Council of Religions (CoR) note that failure to comply puts human life at risk, which is “not an act of worship.”

The leaders say that the people of God in the country “are living an exceptional experience” due to the pandemic, which “wreaks havoc and disrupts our daily life.”

“It hurts us not to come together for prayer in our places of worship. But we are convinced that endangering the lives of our loved ones and our communities in general by gathering in large numbers is not an act of worship,” officials of CoR says.

The religious leaders who include representatives of the Catholic Church in the country add, “Now is the time to show that faith is part of the preventive and reactive actions to protect each other in order to save our rainbow island from COVID-19.”


As faith-based leaders, CoR representatives say they are “well placed to reduce stigma and protect people from discriminatory practices resulting from prejudice, misinformation or hysteria due to the virus.”

“No matter where we are or what religions we serve, the word must now be love/mercy/compassion/dignity for all life. This is the change we need to make in order to survive and thrive,” officials of the 21-year-old entity say in their appeal published on the website of the country’s Catholic Diocese of Port Louis.

In a televised address to the nation on the evening of March 9, the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, announced a nationwide lockdown that is expected to last until March 25 as a means to control the spread of the pandemic.

"This containment became necessary after the appearance of four new local positive cases of COVID-19, bringing to 14 the number of local positive cases registered since March 5,” the Prime Minister was quoted as saying.

Following the announcement, the Bishop of Port Louis Diocese, Maurice Cardinal Piat and the Apostolic Administrator of the country’s Vicariate of Rodrigues, Mons. Luc René Young Chen Yin suspended public liturgical celebrations in their respective jurisdictions, with the exception of funerals.

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The 1.2 million-population island nation has recorded at least 758 COVID-19 cases, 592 recoveries and 10 related deaths.

“Now is not the time to dispute the death toll or the number of infected and believe that faith alone will prevent the spread,” religious leaders in Mauritius say in their March 16 statement.

They add, “It is time to show that faith is part of the preventive and reactive actions to protect each other.”

The representatives of CoR, an entity whose members strive to work together on an interfaith basis with effective guidance for shared understanding, say that “it is only possible to control COVID-19 if we follow the guidelines and follow the science.”

“And for those who say we choose prayer over science, we say science is an answer to our prayers,” they say and add, “With one voice, let us unite our hearts in prayer and implore the Almighty to hear our prayers, to listen to our cries of mercy, to come to our aid.”


Meanwhile, the leadership of the Mauritius’ Apostolic Vicariate of Rodrigues has, in a solidarity message, sent “fraternal greetings” to the Mauritian people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At this very difficult moment with which the republic has to face due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we think a lot of you and especially of those who are infected by this virus,” the Vicariate’s Apostolic Administrator, Mons. Chen Yin said in his Tuesday, March 16 message.

In his message addressed to Cardinal Piat, he added, “For us in Rodrigues, it is a miracle and a true blessing from God that we are not yet affected by this virus. We are with you wholeheartedly and carry you all in our daily prayer.”

“May God guide our leaders to continue their work to protect and help the people in confinement. May the Spirit of God guide the medical profession, the hospital service and the front-liners who are doing an immense job to treat the sick and contain this pandemic,” Mons. Chen Yin implored.

The member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) further implored, “May God heal those who are infected with this virus. May God in his love and mercy bring an end to this pandemic.” 

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“In Rodrigues, we think about you a lot. We have you at heart. May God bless you and keep you,” Mons. Chen Yin said, addressing himself to the people of God in Port Louis Diocese.