- Title: Senegal considers cancelling religious festivals amid coronavirus outbreak
- Date: 13th March 2020
- Summary: TOUBA, SENEGAL (FILE - MAY 2019) (REUTERS) ENTRANCE TO THE CITY OF TOUBA ENTRANCE OF THE GREAT MOSQUE OF TOUBA PEOPLE ENTERING PREMISES OF THE MOSQUE
- Keywords: COVID-19 coronavirus infected mouride brotherhood relgious festival
- Reuters ID: LVA002C4W0U2V
- Location: DAKAR AND TOUBA, SENEGAL
- City: DAKAR AND TOUBA, SENEGAL
- Country: Senegal
- Duration: 00:00:18
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Topics: Health/Medicine
- Story Text: Senegal said 21 people have now tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday (March 13) during a month when several annual religious festivals are planned and still expected to go ahead.
The 11 new cases declared on Friday were contacts of a Senegalese man who returned on March 6 from Italy to attend a religious event in Touba, the holy city of the Mouride brotherhood, and whose test came back positive on March 11.
The ministry of health said they had identified more than 1,000 contacts and 71 were close to him.
Until now religious leaders have not cancelled the planned gatherings, one of which is a March 22 Mouride celebration, the Kazu Rajab, also in Touba, whilst others are organised by different brotherhoods. But the government was expected to make a decision this week.
At the newly unveiled grand Mouride mosque of Massalikoul Jinaan in Dakar many worshipers after Friday prayers said they would prefer the celebrations to go ahead.
One Senegalese, Babacar Diagne, who lives in Italy said he agreed with the banning of large gatherings.
"I had to go to Italy on Saturday but my flight was cancelled. Senegal as a country does not have the means, we have to follow the rules to avoid the disease," he said.
But others said they should be allowed to go.
Mbakiou Faye, the spokesman for the Khalif of the Mourides in Dakar said prayers and incantations should be enough to ward off the virus.
Founded under the yoke of French colonialism in the 1880s, Mouride are one of West Africa's most powerful religious movements and value independence and personal religious fulfilment.
Over 90 percent of Senegalese are Muslims. Most claim allegiance to one of four Sufi brotherhoods: half are Tidianes, a third Mourides and most others Qadriyya and Layennes.
Although not the largest brotherhood, the Mourides wield most political, economic and religious influence in Senegal.
The Layennes hold an annual pilgrimage in Dakar on the weekend of March 25-26 and this weekend two events are planned, a retreat in Casamance that attracts thousands of people and the Ziarra pilgrimage for the Tidiane community in Tivaouane.
(Production: Christophe Van Der Perre, Yvonne Bell)
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