COVID-19 Nagaland: Fellowships at QCs evoke contrasting views

Associate Pastor of Dimapur Ao Baptist Arogo, Toshi Longkumer conducts a fellowship through PA system at a quarantine centre in Dimapur without coming into direct contact with the occupants.
Associate Pastor of Dimapur Ao Baptist Arogo, Toshi Longkumer conducts a fellowship through PA system at a quarantine centre in Dimapur without coming into direct contact with the occupants.

Churches say ‘there is no inter-mingling’


Morung Express News
Dimapur | June 23

With almost every activity being severely affected including religious congregations owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, believers of Christ especially in the Christian dominated state of Nagaland have been missing their regular dosage of the word of God from the Church leaders. Many Churches deliver online sermons and also issue order of programmes through social media to be followed by its members in their respective homes.

Meanwhile, there are also many Churches organizing fellowships in the premises of quarantine centres with the people staying there to provide them spiritual counselling and nourishment. This activity of the Churches is being welcomed and appreciated by many including the residents. However, there are also others who fear that the chances of community spread of COVID-19 might increase through such fellowships. 


Chances of community spread?
A citizen of Dimapur said, “It is not that all those in quarantine centres are COVID-19 positive persons but they are not tested yet or awaiting results. The large number of positive cases reported in our state during the last two days is alarming and the Churches may do well to have a re-look into this activity although I agree that spiritual food is necessary for all of us.” He held the view that once any outsider enters the quarantine centres, that person risks contracting the disease and then further spread to his contacts outside. 

“The volunteers and authorized personnel are in proper protective gears and they do not have fellowships with those people in quarantine but Church members do not wear full protection and on top of that they are fellowshipping with the residents although social distancing might be maintained which I assume may not be strictly followed,” another citizen said.

A certain educated unemployed youth said, “Even before the government allowed religious places to open with certain conditions, the Churches have been having fellowships at quarantine centres and the fellowship itself is a religious gathering.”

“As much as the people in the quarantine need spiritual teachings we also need it and are thirsty. The government has already allowed religious places to open and I was waiting when my Church will be open but since our Church leaders are frequenting the quarantine centres, I am having a second thought about the urgency to open Churches,” another believer said.

“So far there is no report of community spread in our state but if the fellowships in quarantine centres continue we are risking community spread since more and more number of positive cases is being reported from the quarantine centres.

The Church members go inside quarantine centres which are a risky zone and they will come out without knowing if they have contracted the disease and gradually spread the disease locally,” another person said. 

A senior citizen appreciated the intention of the Churches but maintained that at this moment prevention and safety is very important which everyone must follow for own good and the community. “So before community spread starts we should prevent it,” he urged.


What Churches say
Executive Secretary of Western Sumi Baptist Akukuhou Kuqhakulu, Rev Phughoto Aye said that before the Church members enter the quarantine centres, they prepare themselves physically and mentally and once inside, social distance is maintained. He said praying and singing together with those staying in quarantine is a part of the Church ministry and added “just by doing that we believe we would not get infected with the disease since we are not mingling with them.” 

Rev Phughoto also said visiting the people in quarantine every evening was an advantage for the Church to feed them with the word of God and pray for them. “During such times, many might be encountering stress and anxiety related problems and we make such visits to encourage them and to let them know that believers are praying for them,” he added.

Pastor of Lotha Baptist Church, Dimapur, Yanbemo Lotha allayed the fears of the public about community transmission through the Church members. “We are not going inside quarantine centres and we maintain social distance so there is no chance of community transmission. The public do not see us having fellowship with the people in quarantine, if the frontline workers in quarantine centres are having such fears then it is a different matter but those who do not see us need not have such fears,” he added.

Associate Pastor of Dimapur Ao Baptist Arogo, Toshi Longkumer said, “No we did not meet the people in quarantine personally but we installed speakers inside their rooms speaking from different campuses and did not even go close to their compound.” It may be mentioned that the Dimapur Area Ao Baptist Churches and Dimapur Ao Civil Societies had jointly managed a quarantine centre at Dimapur Government College. 

“Keeping in mind that the disease could be spread, we made sure that the SoP issued is followed and we tried to reach them out accordingly through morning and evening prayers. We play audio recorded messages and we lead praise and worship services through the sound system. So having fellowship does not mean that we went inside,” he added.