By Robin Gomes
The Catholic Church in Malaysia has given a hand to a solidarity movement battling the Covid-19 pandemic. The Malaysian Catholic Bishops' Conference (CBCM) has committed a sum of 1 million Malaysian ringgit (RM) to the Malaysia Solidarity Covid-19 Fund. Several faith-based organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have contributed to this fund initiated by the Malaysian chapter of the Tzu Chi Foundation. The Taiwan-based international humanitarian and non-profit organization is inspired by the Buddhist virtue of compassion and is devoted to spreading love through its work in the fields of charity, medicine, education, and culture. The Tzu Chi Foundation aims to support initiatives and programmes to fight the pandemic through prevention and treatment.
The Church's endeavours
"This is an emergency fund in response to the urgent request for assistance from our public hospitals and healthcare workers for the supply of various medical equipment to cope with the high number of critically ill Covid-19 patients," said Father Michael Chua, the chancellor of Kuala Lumpur Archdiocese. The priest who works with the CBCM said the bishops have urged their faithful to support this cause by making donations to the Malaysia Solidarity Covid-19 Fund. The Tzu Chi Foundation Malaysia guarantees that 100% of the funds raised will be used for the purposes indicated.
"This is an emergency fund to which we are contributing in order to help health workers to provide life-saving equipment for 142 hospitals", said Bishop Bernard Paul of Melaka-Johor. It is in the spirit of solidarity and charity that the Church in Malaysia is working to combat the pandemic and its effects. Caritas Melaka-Johor has launched a food aid programme for people affected by lockdowns. Several parishes run food banks, with grassroots church communities working at the forefront to identify families in need.
The Archdiocese of Kuching has donated 10,000 face masks and 6,200 units of personal protective equipment (PPE) to Sarawak General Hospital, thanks to the contribution of Catholic benefactors and friends across Sarawak State.
Archbishop Simon Poh of Kuching coordinated a special collection together with Bishop Joseph Hii of Sibu and Bishop Richard Ng of Miri. "The spirit is to offer material and spiritual support to frontline workers in Sarawak during this period of Covid-19", he said, calling for new collaborative initiatives. "Every little help from people of goodwill contributes to the common good for all", he added.
As of Friday, Malaysia Solidarity Covid-19 Fund received RM 5,669,136 in donations and RM 7,230,554 worth of medical equipment.
A minority community
According to government figures, Christians are a minority community, forming 9.2 per cent of the nation's 32.7 million people, 60% of whom profess Islam. Buddhists are more numerous making up 19.8 per cent. Catholics who number a little over 11.7 million, are spread across the country’s 9 dioceses, of which three are archdioceses.
The bishops of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei together form a single episcopal conference – the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (CBCMSB). Most members are Malaysians, with a bishop each from Singapore and Brunei. However, the CBCM takes decisions on national issues.
Malaysia's Covid19 scenario
Malaysia’s health ministry reported 5,812 new cases of Covid-19 on Friday, taking the total to 722,659, since the first three cases were reported on January 25, 2020. With 82 deaths the total has risen to 4,803.
The government imposed a lockdown on June 1, which is slated to end on June 28. Meanwhile, more than 13 million citizens have already registered for inoculation as part of a mass vaccination programme.
Khairy Jamaluddin, coordinating minister for immunization, said the target of fully vaccinating 10 per cent of the population — one of the key criteria to evaluate easing the ongoing lockdown — will not be fulfilled before June 28. “By end-June, we estimate to be able to deliver eight million doses. Going by the ratio of first dose and second dose, we need to have administered 10.7 million doses in order to fully vaccinate 3.2 million of the population,” Khairy said in a Straits Times report. “We expect to reach 10.7 million doses in mid-July.”
As of June 20, 1.6 million people, or 5 per cent of Malaysia’s population, have received both doses of the vaccine. In total, 4.2 million people, or 12 per cent of the population, have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to The Straits Times.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said last week that the government will allow all economic sectors, social activities and domestic tourism by the end of the year when herd immunity is achieved with 80 per cent of the 32 million population fully vaccinated. (Source: Fides/UCA News)