Seoul reopens mosques for Ramadan

A screengrab from YouTube video channel shows Korean Muslims offering prayers outside the reopened Seoul Central Mosque on Wednesday. (Supplied)
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Updated 07 May 2020

Seoul reopens mosques for Ramadan

  • Move comes as South Korea reports zero new infections for third day

SEOUL: Several mosques reopened in South Korea on Wednesday following a decline in coronavirus cases across the country, officials told Arab News.

“We’re still concerned about the spread of the novel coronavirus, so over the next 10 days visitors will be allowed to offer prayers only outside the mosque,“ A. Rhaman Lee Ju-hwa, chief imam at the Korea Muslim Federation (KMF), said in a phone interview.

The federation banned Friday prayers at its religious facilities across the country to prevent the spread of coronavirus among South Korea’s 150,000 Muslims, who make up about 0.3 percent of the total population of 51.6 million.

However, the KMF said on Monday that mosques will be reopened for Friday and taraweeh congregational prayers with anti-virus measures observed at all times.

HIGHLIGHT

  • Worshippers must stay at least one meter away from each other to limit the spread of infection.

“All Muslims who come to the Seoul Central Mosque and mosques around the country should maintain conditions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as using hand sanitizers, wearing face masks and writing their names in the registry list,” it said.

Worshippers must also stay at least one meter away from each other to limit the spread of
infection.

Following the outbreak of the pandemic two months ago, the South Korean government asked religious communities to restrict mass gatherings and raised the national alert for the deadly respiratory disease to the highest level of “serious.”

With Ramadan starting on April 23, many are hoping to celebrate Eid — the festival to mark the end of the month — with special prayers at mosques.

“If all goes well, we will be able to hold a festival either on May 23 or 24,” Lee said.

Reopening of mosques, along with the flattening of the coronavirus curve, will boost confidence in the country.

On Wednesday, South Korea had the third consecutive day of zero, locally transmitted COVID-19 infections since the start of its “life quarantine” phase.

Only two more coronavirus cases have been reported, bringing the total number to 10,806, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

South Korea’s death toll stands at 255, with an overall fatality rate of 2.36 percent.

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Civilians, soldiers clash leaving 127 dead in South Sudan

Updated 12 August 2020

Civilians, soldiers clash leaving 127 dead in South Sudan

  • The violence in Tonj began after several armed youths got into a disagreement with soldiers
  • An initial armed confrontation was brought under control, but local youths subsequently mobilized for an attack on the army position

JUBA: Clashes between soldiers and civilians during a disarmament exercise in the central South Sudanese town of Tonj have left 127 dead, the army spokesman said Wednesday.
Major General Lul Ruai Koang told AFP that the fighting erupted on Saturday as security forces carried out an operation to disarm civilians in the area which has seen deadly inter-communal clashes.
More than six years after a civil war broke out in the country, and in the absence of a functioning government, many communities are flush with weapons, which they keep for protection or defense against cattle raids.
The violence in Tonj began after several armed youths got into a disagreement with soldiers. An initial armed confrontation was brought under control, but according to Koang the youths mobilized others for an attack on the army position.
“On the latest, the number of those killed, I can confirm to you that it rose to 127,” Koang said, adding that 45 of those killed were security forces and 82 were youths from the area.
A further 32 soldiers were injured.
Koang said two military officers involved in “triggering the clashes” had been arrested, and that the situation in Tonj had calmed down.
South Sudan is emerging from a six-year civil war that left 380,000 dead and millions displaced, and disarmament is a major stumbling block.
Experts have warned against operations that coerce people to lay down their guns without proper planning, as some communities could find themselves unable to protect themselves after their weapons are removed.
“The clashes should be an opportunity to rethink the approach to disarmament. What is the point of removing guns without addressing what drives folks to arms themselves?” Geoffrey Duke, head of the South Sudan Action Network on Small Arms, said on Twitter.
“We can take guns away this week & they buy a new one next week (as) long as they still see the need to have (one).”