*Camden Baptist Church (Photo: Supplied, Paige Reilly)
Five times a day, 31-year-old Muhaiminul Islam would travel from his Minto home to his local mosque to pray. It’s a ritual all men of the Islamic faith are obliged to follow.
“It is very important for us to gather several times a day with our friends and relatives,” he says.
“It has both social and emotional effects on the community and is a source of great networking. Every Muslim is emotionally attached to mosques and Islamic centres.”
But this sacred and important part of the day has been waylaid by COVID-19.
Restrictions on communal gatherings has placed a strain on Muslim communities and the regular meetings that are an essential part of their religious beliefs.
Muhaiminul says that despite the restrictions, it has not stopped him praying at home, or learning and reflecting on sacred teachings through online lectures.
“It is of highest importance in Islam to protect one’s life and not be the cause of harm to anyone else.”
It has also provided another reason to be kind to others.
“Our faith demands us to sacrifice more in charity and helping each other in order to face this condition collectively as a society… this is how we are taught to respond to this trial from God.”
Muhaiminul and his wife, who have an 18-month-old daughter, are completely devoted to their religion. But they also believe if the current coronavirus restrictions protect people’s health – they are worth it. “It is of highest importance in Islam to protect one’s life and not be the cause of harm to anyone else.”
Muhummad Kalkan agrees that the lockdown has been a strain, but he believes it is a time to lend a helping hand.
He says the Imam of his local mosque continues to lead the congregation in prayer and has prepared ways to help the elderly, such as assisting with grocery shopping.
“The Imam is organising aid to those with household needs and the youth have volunteered to pick up and drop off those needs,” he said.
“Also, due to restrictions we have gone to live videos on social media, to update the community in these confusing times.”
All religions however, have been forced to make changes as a result of this pandemic.
Many large and small churches, such as Hillsong and C3, have gone online to continue their congregational meetings.
Camden Baptist church Senior Pastor Mark Reilly, believes that while the new way of “attending” church is hard, it has opened up ways of reaching people who would otherwise not attend a Sunday service.
“I sit on the driveway with a chair and people bring out their chair, and we do pastoral care visits.”
“The church is not only going to survive, but I think it will thrive,” he said.
“It’s actually reached different people. Different people are saying ‘oh can I come into your service’ who would have never had.”
One of Pastor Reilly’s responsibilities is to initiate care meetings with attendees of the Church. Due to the restrictions, he’s had to come up with new ways of doing this. “I sit on the driveway with a chair and people bring out their chair, and we do pastoral care visits.”
Despite the new restrictions, Pastor Reilly is determined to offer encouragement to people in need – particularly in these times of uncertainty.
“I’m always trying to think, ‘well, what more we can do’.”
– Isabella Refalo @bella_refalo