Sense of joy filled the air on Friday as Sydney mosques opened their doors to welcome worshippers after a very long COVID-19 lockdown
“The community has been waiting for such a decision, as you can imagine,” said Maen Akl, a board member at the Lebanese Muslim Association, which runs the mosques at Lakemba and Cabramatta and Young Mosques, The Guardian reported.
“The heart of the faithful are connected to their place of worship, and more so for the Islamic community, who have to pray five times a day, and who see the mosque as the house of God.”
“It has been too long.”
While Lakemba mosque decided to open to vaccinated people only, other mosques chose to wait for two weeks until they can welcome both vaccinated and unvaccinated worshippers.
“Right now, we will be adhering to the requirements laid out by the public health orders, but we hope that a time will come where all members of the community will be allowed into our places of worship, without any impact on anyone’s health,” Akl said.
“We miss the communal element, the ability to see our friends and family in congregational prayer, to hear a reminder and the Quran. It will be a relief to return.”
Joy & Relief
The sense of relief is shared across all faiths which celebrated reopening doors.
Father James Collins, from the Church of St Paul’s in Burwood, said the local community was “off the scale excited” to return to face-to-face congregations.
“We’ve missed it so much. The two great commandments are to love God and our neighbour, and we do that by gathering together to worship God,” he said. “We can do that at home, we can do it out walking, but there’s something about gathering together to worship God that is at the heart of our faith, and pretty much all faith.
“So we’re looking forward to being able to return to doing that, and doing it safely.”
Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio, from the Emanuel Synagogue in Woollahra, said her community had also found online religious services a bit lacking.
“We have been doing some of our services over Zoom but there are elements which can only be done in person, and we have missed the support of connecting with community, in prayer but also in times of joy and sorrow. Many of our celebrations have been on hold also so it will be wonderful to be back in person.”
Australia Muslims make up 2.6% of the population of 26 million, according to the last census in 2016. This was up from 2.2% in the 2011 census.
To encourage vaccination, a group of Australian Muslim women have launched a campaign to boost COVID-19 vaccination in their community and confront faith-based misinformation.
Earlier this year, Alaa Elzokm, the imam of Elsedeaq Heidelberg Mosque in Melbourne, worked hard to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic among Muslim congregations and community and educate people on the importance of the vaccine.
Australia Fatwa Council also released Coronavirus Vaccine fatwa, pronouncing both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines as halal for Muslims.