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Pastors, others face arrest

-as police crackdown on violators of public health law

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Liberia’s Inspector General of Police Col. Patrick T. Sudue has threatened to arrest and prosecute pastors according to public health law if they open their Churches to conduct services as of next Sunday, 29 March in defiance of health protocols announced to curtail coronavirus spread here.

“The entire country is aware next Sunday there will be no Church service. Anybody who open their door to have Church service, you doing it in total defiance of the law and we will go in, we will arrest you and prosecute you. Trust me, we will arrest the pastor and prosecute him,” Sudue told a local FM Monday, 23 March via mobile.

The Liberia Council of Churches says it will abide by health protocols as it is aware of the health situation in the country, but it clarifies that a meeting held with President George Manneh Weah over the weekend did not reach any decision to close Churches, as it was rather suggested that multiple services be conducted to prevent mass gathering amid the coronavirus outbreak here.

The head of the Council of Churches Bishop Kortu Brown has indicated that the Church regrets the abrupt police action against peaceful worshipers on Sunday.

Notwithstanding, Col. Sudue argues that everybody is in the know of what is happening here, but police were moderate with the Churches on Sunday, 22 March because most of them said the mandate to close Churches came up late and people didn’t know that’s why they went to Church.

He warns that anybody who defies the mandate and opens Church next Sunday will be arrested and prosecuted according to the public health law.

“But I can tell you, this coming Sunday, any Church, any Church that will open this coming Sunday, we are not going to talk to the pastor to say please stop your service. Everybody, we putting them out. Any Church, it can be who,” Sudue warns.

Col Sudue insist that he will this time around enforce the law without fear or favour, accordingly.
He said police were a bit flexible on Sunday because the declaration of the national emergency was not widely publicised and many worshippers had gathered at their places of worship before the news went viral.

“So if Senator [Prince Yormie] Johnson prayed for less than a minute … I don’t see what the argument is about. The idea here Senator Johnson’s Church was closed,” he explains.Government late Saturday night announced the declaration of a nationwide health emergency to help curb the spread of COVID-19 here which came into force early Sunday morning.

Churches and other religious worship centers where people had gathered before the emergency order came into force had to send worshippers home, directing them to follow the services online.The government said the declaration of the nationwide health emergency is in line with title 33, Chapter 14 of the Public Health Law of Liberia.

The declaration outlined several stringent measures which includes the closures of all schools both private and public including universities, computers schools and all other training institutions; all bars, casinos, video clubs, cinemas, betting centers, beaches both private and public ordered closed.

Churches, Mosques, and other religious places of worshiped were also ordered closed on Sunday morning. Large gathering to include sporting activities, parties of more than 10 persons are also ordered banned. Wedding and funerals are allowed but should not include more than 10 persons. Those attending such functions are to keep a distance of six feet apart.By Winston W. Parley

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