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Belgium Jews join religious faiths’ demand to allow more worshipers at services

In letter to interior minister, representatives say current limit of 15 people, applied due to coronavirus, is restrictive, propose one person per 10 square meters as rule

Illustrative: People attend a ceremony at the main synagogue of Brussels, June 4, 2008. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP)
Illustrative: People attend a ceremony at the main synagogue of Brussels, June 4, 2008. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP)

Representatives of the religious faiths recognized in Belgium have joined forces to urge federal authorities to increase the number of people admitted inside places of worship during the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the current COVID-19 rules, such places can accommodate up to 15 people. In a letter to Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, the religious representatives argued that the number of people allowed should instead be linked to the space available.

They proposed a return to the “one person per 10 square meters” rule that applied in June last year when Belgium exited the spring lockdown.

“The use of this standard proved to be less restrictive for religious practice and at the same time very protective for public health,” they said in a statement on Wednesday.

Belgium’s then Minister for Pensions Vincent Van Quickenborne arrives at the Prime Ministers office in Brussels, February 14, 2012. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP)

The letter was signed by representatives from the Roman Catholic, Protestant-Evangelical, Jewish, Anglican, Muslim and Orthodox faiths.

“In these difficult and uncertain times, the need for meaning and spirituality is felt more than ever,” they said. “For months now, a maximum of 15 people at a time have been able to gather in churches, mosques and synagogues in our country. Even if the life of a believer does not take place exclusively in the place of worship, many feel this measure in the long run as a drastic restriction of the latter.”

The government introduced the 15-person limit in December after the country’s highest court said the ban of services — with the exception of weddings and funerals in restricted company — that was introduced in October was disproportionate and impeded constitutional conditions on freedom of religion.

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