2 June, 2020

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The Challenge Of Managing The Corona Crisis Trauma: Religion Has A Positive Role To Play! 

By Mohamed Harees –

Lukman Harees

This Coronavirus pandemic is a disaster of seismic magnitude of our times; a world-shattering event whose far-ranging consequences cannot be fathomed yet. Perhaps more than any disease in living memory, it chimes with our society’s fears. If ever we needed reminding that we live in an interconnected world, the novel corona virus has brought that home. It is thus a test not only of our healthcare systems and mechanisms for responding to infectious diseases, but also of our ability to work together as a community of nations in the face of a common challenge. It is also fact that this global, novel virus that keeps us contained in our homes—maybe for months—is already reorienting our relationship to government, to the outside world, even to each other. Thus ,if the shock of corona virus disruption isn’t enough for us to recalibrate and reflect on our values and life priorities, what will be? 

In the hopes of ‘flattening the curve’ of the pandemic, a coronavirus culture has emerged, spontaneously and creatively, to deal with public fear, restrictions on daily life, and the tedious isolation of quarantine. Traditions have developed because they fit the ecology and biology of the times. This crisis has also raised serious medical, ethical and logistical questions too. But, for faith communities who are among those most affected by this virus simply by virtue of the fact that they gather in person frequently, it raises additional questions and challenges. 

There is a point of view, that COVID-19 crisis poses a challenge to faith and religion, thereby losing its potency in the lives of people, as ‘science and medicine’ is said to be working out to be a more reliable solution in fighting this pandemic. However, it is naïve to make this comparison as faith/religious values and science is not in contradiction with each other. Each plays important, significant and complementary roles in our lives. Faith in the Divine and prayers hold us together in hope and community as a distraught world is losing its sense of direction and purpose at these difficult times, while ‘science and medicine’ is effectively tackling the virus in practical ways. Thus, down on earth, as this pandemic has been felling lives, livelihoods and normalcy, on the contrary, billions of the faithful, are drawing even closer to religion, which has become the solace of first resort for them!

During the  course of history, faith in the Divine power, has been the glue that holds people together in moments of crisis like this and also a purveyor of hope in moments of immense anxieties and fears. It has been a remedy against despair, providing psychological and emotional support that is an integral part of well-being. At a time when the people are exercising social distancing and are facing lockdowns and curfews, religion also acts as antidote to loneliness, which several medical experts point to as one of the most worrisome public health issues of our time. At a deeper level, religion, for worshipers, is the ultimate source of meaning. Besides, the most profound claim of every religion is to make sense of the whole of existence. Thus, when the religious needs of practicing people aren’t met, it leads to a tension between physical health and spiritual comfort, which in some ways becomes an irreconcilable one- a dilemma which inevitably generates some sort of interior starvation. Thus, for the faithful, religion becomes a fundamental source of spiritual healing and hope for human kind, and will in fact complement the efforts of the scientific and medical community in helping  them to manage this crucial time phase in their recorded history. In this context, the role of religion in helping to manage this crisis; even its post-phase, will expand rather than diminish as some may naively think. 

Already religion has been playing a positive role in the containment exercise of this virus. Many changes and adjustments are already evident in the practise of faiths in the face of this global pandemic. Around the world, many faiths have been adapting to the new reality surrounding the Corona crisis. Heeding public health warnings, churches, mosques, Hindu Kovils, Buddhist temples and synagogues are changing rituals in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. Houses of worship have already faced closure or have gone empty. Many religious leaders have made fervent appeals to the faithful to stay at home and engage in worship, while making unprecedented and drastic moves to change their routines, such as cancelling worship services, closing religious schools and holy sites. For Muslims for example, congregational prayers on Friday is a religious obligation. But as congregations across the country and the world weighed whether to stay open, experts in Islamic law stepped in, entreating the faithful to follow government guidelines and avoid the mosque even for these weekly congregational Friday prayers and instead pray at home. Saudi Arabia closed both sacred mosques in Makkah and Medina. Other religious leadership too made similar moves. Sunday Mass and Easter services cancelled too. The imperative need to avoid public spaces in hoping to contain the spread of coronavirus, was impressed upon on believers of all stripes knowing that God helps those who help themselves and others around them, with thoughtful prudence.

How significant will the role of religions be, during this difficult phase and its post-phase? The interaction between religious and scientific communities can however be inhibited by a perception that they don’t share the same worldview. But in fact, both religion and science basically work around a same core value- to heal mankind and the world around them in different ways.  Thus, if ever religious and scientific communities need to join together in pursuing wholeness and healing for the world, it’s now, when mankind is facing an existential threat.

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all nations and all classes of people, redrawing global priorities and disrupting economies in unprecedented ways not known in recent history. Each country needs every other country and everyone within its borders in its fight against this deadly virus. The wizardry of modern technology is overwhelmed and the advanced medical systems of the super powers have palpably become idle boasts in the face of a shock of this magnitude. Even the US despite being a great power, in the wake of this COVID-19 transnational threat, like climate change, has come to realize that it cannot protect its security by acting alone. This crisis will reshuffle the international power structure in ways we can only imagine, as it provides a seismic shock that permanently changes the international system and balance of power as we know it. The pandemic itself is proof of our interdependence. Every nation, and increasingly every individual, is experiencing the societal strain of this disease in new and powerful ways. Amidst this, there is also a conflicting reality that all countries are turning inward and saying, ‘I am going to do what is good for me’. 

Be it as it may, isn’t Corona Pandemic a great leveller of sorts? The world, particularly the powerful nations, in its on-going and Post corona phase ought to realise their inherent weakness in the wake of  this invisible enemy and therefore realize the imperative need for humility and  inter dependency and support without engaging in futile shows of macho power. The mirage of dignity and the reality of inequality in the lives of people are exposed like never before. The religion has a role to play in taking this message to the grass root level of the society and encourage them to think and compel their leaders to think about all levels of humanity whether within or outside their borders. There is also a need for the institution of Religion to provide leadership along with the HR activists to force the hands of their governments as well as international agencies to initiate sustainable and realistic programs of action to help the poor and the needy across the globe, and stop the hypocrisy around the human rights regimes used by the powerful nations as a tool to control the developing world.    

There is another ethical issue coming to the fore as the pandemic moves towards its peak. In a context of grave shortage of health resources, to combat the increasing casualties and fatalities arising from this pandemic, many countries adversely affected have even laid down guidelines to be adopted in an over-stretched situation, to say, intensive care should be given to “patients with the best chance of success” and those with the “best hope of life” should be prioritized. Italy is one such example, with UK reportedly expected to follow suit where such guidelines are in operation. The guidelines also say that in “in the interests of maximizing benefits for the largest number,” limits could be put on intensive care units to reserve scarce resources to those who have, first, “greater likelihood of survival and secondly who have more potential years of life. The authorities still hope the guidelines never needed to be applied.   This approach is a form of utilitarianism – which aims at maximising the number of lives saved by prioritising for treatment those people who are most likely to benefit from the treatment. This is a gut-wrenching consequence, in a pandemic like this, which the medical authorities say, they cannot help but confront it head on. They say that while emergencies do not call for a suspension of ethics, they do call on them  to revisit the priorities – and that will always be horribly uncomfortable. There is also the question of cremation of Corona fatalities, affecting some faith communities such as Jews and Muslims , although WHO guidelines and country level public health guidelines allow either option of burial or cremation. This possibility and reality can be minimised if the governments can be more sensitive to religious sensitivities and also if religious leadership can work in liaison with the authorities to raise awareness among the people to adhere to public health guidelines on social distancing, quarantining and self isolation as well as encouraging them to stay at home as feasibly as possible to reduce the pressure on the health system. 

Of course, there are also signs of hope and good sense, in the midst of this crisis. Across the world, there are many examples of the power of the human spirit—of doctors, nurses, activists, the resourceful, and ordinary citizens demonstrating resilience, effectiveness, philanthropy and leadership. That provides hope that men and women around the world can prevail in response to this extraordinary challenge. Taking care of each other is a spiritual exercise. This is the time to be good neighbours. This is the time for us to think about compassion and empathy. This is the spirit that the religion can further promote and where it is strong at, when a miniscule portion of the human race is fighting for a larger share of the pie at the expense of the world’s majority suffering below the poverty line.  

As people of faith, our primary concern at this time should be for the victims of the virus, and for the safety of everyone in society. Unfortunately, in some countries, racism is also being used to stigmatize some communities affected by the virus by a biased Media. All human beings are children of God and our prayers must go towards all without any ifs and buts. Some arrogant public statements are being made by some religious fanatics that God is punishing some sections of humanity.This is not true and reveal the unfortunate dark side of the faithful. It’s time for all who have faith in God to accept this pandemic as a trial from God to reflect and make amends at a time when mankind has lost his plot and direction while showing  compassion and humility to all, rather than blasphemous arrogance. 

World War I, the Great Depression, end of Ottoman Empire, War II, the Fall of the Iron Curtain, September 11! Each of those events triggered changes that altered the world, creating new situations whereby the world everyone returned to after the formative event was not like the world they knew before it. The corona-virus is likely to be remembered as just such an event, changing our lives in a myriad of ways. A permanent mode of crisis can also endanger open societies. In a state of emergency, the course is set for an uncertain post-corona world.  As the global economy thus reels and everyday life grinds to a standstill, signs are that a totally different Post- Corona world order is bound to take shape, much different to what is now. Crisis moments also present opportunity. What leaders need beyond this crisis, is not a predefined response plan but behaviours and mindsets that will prevent them from overreacting to yesterday’s developments and help them look ahead. Solidarity between countries and people as well as a readiness to make sacrifices for the common good are decisive. 

Thus, in managing such challenges, Religion has a positive role to play in giving leadership to make such a world much equitable and fair, free of prejudice based on race or religion. Something that the five major world religions (Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam) have in common is a sense of community, which provides group cohesion and identity. Human values are social and ethical norms common to all cultures and societies as well as religions which includes caring for all life, compassion and kindness and generosity and charity as well as peace building, Much of the misery that has come into the world in the name of religion can be avoided by reintroducing these shared values. Let this corona crisis afford an opportunity to reintroduce these shared values.

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Latest comments

  • 7
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    Today in Tamil Nadu 50 Muslims who attended a religious ceremony in Delhi this month have tested positive for Corona virus. This shows that Islam has a positive role to play in spreading the disease.

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      Lanka Perera,

      Muslims are equally stupid like the Sinhala Buddhists who went to India on Pilgrimage, went to the butterfly mountain, those who went to temples and churches.

      After all, their mean measured IQ is 79. What else do you expect from brainwashed imbeciles.

      Even President Gon Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Match 17, coronavirus is no problem.

      Today President , Gon Donald Trump, was read the riot act by the scientists. He is finally getting it.

      Tell Gon Gotabaya Rajaoaksa, that the coronavirus is going to a major, major problem. Tell the monks as well.,

      • 2
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        The Tablighi Jamaat, the organization founded in India during 1926, has nothing to do with Islam, but they self-appointed themselves saying they want to teach Islam to the Muslims.

        Whether they teach Islam or not, they have managed to isolate Muslims from other communities in India and Sri Lanka. The dress code changed after arrival of this Tablighi Jamaat to SL. Muslims also started to distance themselves after arrival of these people in SL. Men started wearing very long beheads, trousers or sarongs well above the ankle and so on. During my childhood, they started to go village by village, then home by home especially on Wednesdays and started preaching at doorsteps, then take the men to the mosque for night-time prayers and preach again after prayers.

        Even today, these people go on pilgrimage of 3 days, 7 days, 40 days, 3 months and so on. Group of men, go to a remote village and stay in the mosque there, sometimes also to different countries – their routime is eat-pray-preach, eat-pray-preach. Above all, this is against Islam as Islam does not permit men to leave their kids and wife for days unless there is a valid reason like job. But this is not permitted in Islam but these people don’t accept. One funny thing is that, even in this modern world, once a guy is in this eat-pray-preach mission, he is never allowed to use him mobile phone. Only postal services.

        Taweed Jamaat break-away faction of Tablighi Jamaat. Then notorious NTJ (easter bomb) was a break-away faction of Taweed Jamaat. When holy mosques in Mecca and Madina are closed due to coronavirus, why these people don’t listen is bad.

    • 6
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      34 of them have returned to SL. 1 dead and cremated. Others’ whereabouts are not known.

      • 2
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        ThanthaiChelva.

        Why do the Paras of all hues, keep running to India, because they are Paras from India? In the Case of Kattchitheevu, it was 7,000 Sri Lankan’s exchanging virus with 3,000 Indians. To make matters worse, the government let it happen, along with the cricket match and the butterfly mountain pilgrimage. Now there are over 146 known cases, and 3 deaths.

        The unknown cases are spreading the virus.

  • 6
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    But Sri Lanka will never learn its lessons ..
    1) no respect to a Muslim man’s body .
    Islam prohibit to burn human bodies as a matter of human dignity yet; dead Muslims in Italy are buried and yet Sri Lanka against the protocol of W.H.O burned the body of Muslim man ..
    This is to humiliate Muslim community…
    What is going to happen if they bury him at deep ground..
    This is sign of arrogance in politics.
    This is what happens when army rules the country .
    No respect to human dignity.
    Now karma will return to Sri Lanka ruling family as it did before.
    Wait and see .
    Now Donald Trump is so sacred about his power grip.and same karma will come to Sri Lanka too..

    • 2
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      Hey Demulu,

      What is the protocol of WHO? Is if the Muslim women wrap them up, from head to toe, then men need not to wear Chinese masks? Muslim women close eyes too because Covid-19 infect through eyes too? Why WHO is saying women only had to do that, but if man cover from head to toe, still Covid-19 will spread to all?

      What was good about Italy? Having earned the world highest number of deaths, highest rate of death for population and highest rate of death for infecnfected cases?

      How many of you want to volunteer to dig deep holes when the Muslims start to fall down? Remember this is first case. Best is yet to come!

      Don’t try hard to turn Moda Anduwa’s attention. This it will give up Covid-19 and come after your Wande Baith.

    • 1
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      With due respect to people of all faiths , when a person breathes his or her last , all that remains is a lifeless corpse. At a time like this , it’s best to accept that fact and dispose of the dead body in the most appropriate manner without demanding ‘rights’ which may have severe consequences on the entire country.

  • 6
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    MH, I am going to be harsh but honest. Upto now from what we have witnessed it is very clear Relegion has caused more harm than playing any productive role, during this crisis. By having prayer meetings and other irrational gatherings , peole have not only spread the infection, but caused death to innocent people who are unaware of their activities and made it much more difficult to contain.. Recently (amidst the crisis) a meeting was conducted by fundamental groups in New Delhi, (see news perorts) where hundreds from Indonesia came over to conduct , following which the perticipants carried the infection to all corners of the country. This alone has suddenly spiked the infection into hundreds. Same in case of Lanka where outsiders came in to conduct prayer meeting but were carriers of the infection, who hugged and kissed people to make sure they contaminated many others with the dreaded infection.The followers then absconded from quarantine and the Govt had to waste money , resources and precious time,trying to track those wanton murderers. A temple ritual was conducted in NE, by a small gathering, just in last 48 hours , which rationally should have been strictly avoided. Most of these people are nothing but exploiting the human vulnerabilities to their advantage. They use the crisis to collect money or to reinforce their skewed thinking and recruit more of their ilk. In general , in past few decades, religion (like politics) not only has lost its purpose but caused immense suffering and harm , to us humans. Religion now is much more virulent, contagious and a pandemic to stay , compared to seasonal transient Covid Virus. I hope the respective Governments will take strict action in bring these hidden sociopaths to justice.The real heroes are the ones at the front line fighting the battle sacrificing self and family.

  • 4
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    Mr. Mohamed Harees,

    Re: COVID and Religion

    “There is a point of view, that COVID-19 crisis poses a challenge to faith and religion, thereby losing its potency in the lives of people, as ‘science and medicine’ is said to be working out to be a more reliable solution in fighting this pandemic. However, it is naïve to make this comparison as faith/religious values and science is not in contradiction with each other. Each plays important, significant and complementary roles in our lives. “

    Thanks for your article. Science and the scientists address particular problems, and arrive at solutions using the scientific method.

    The COVID -19 pandemic, is a scientific problem and need scientific solutions, to save those who are infected, and not infected. In this case, a bigger part is for the populace to cooperate and not to spread the virus. This is where the religions can help , by informing the faithful, to keep apart, not to spread it.

    Unfortunately, Religions have been spreading, the virus, by congregating, going on pilgrimages etc. based on unproven beliefs.

    True, religious fills a void in the spirituality of people. However, when they follow the spirituality blindly, it becomes a problem for the greater society, like spreading the virus.

    People should take the time to thank the health care workers, the nurses, the doctors ,the virologists, biologists, immunologists and scientists who are in the front line of fighting the COVID-19.

    It is NOT the monks, the priests and the Ulama who are making a difference. Their chantings and prayers will not make any difference. They should transform themselves into scientists and become useful. Can they? Do they have the IQ?. Can they follow the scientific method?

    Or, are they brainwashed beyond redemption?

    • 3
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      Mr. Mohamed Harees,

      Re: COVID and Religion

      Muslims, Jews and Christians must be told that they if get the COVID-19 virus . they will be cremated.

      Therefore it is best not to get the virus, but how?

      Personal distancing. Don’t get the virus. If you were unfortunate to get the virus or the symptoms, report and get treatment, so that you can save the others., as well as yourself.

      This is not the time to argue about the merits of burial or cremation or the presence or absence of the soul and afterlife. The COVID-19 virus with the vital RNA, simply does not care.

  • 9
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    Why is it, that the Catholic Countries of Europe have the Highest scoring Virus Cases?
    Because they prayed to God, in Groups in Churches instead of taking Rational Action like Singapore and South Korea?

    • 10
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      Exactly, blind faith kills.

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        Adrian, and blind trust destroys nations..vaccines will never be found for that.

        • 3
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          Abdul there is a vaccine, its called democracy.

    • 4
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      Hamlet,

      Why couldn’t the infallible Pope stop the virus spreading to the faithful? He had a Mass in the Vatican, and people were 10 meters away.

      Looks like COVID-19 is calling the bluff of the various religions. The infallible Pope, the Priests and the Ulama are stumped, and exposed on their unproven beliefs.

      Need to seek refuge from doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, and need the help of the virologists, biologists , immunologists and other scientists to get out of this.

      • 3
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        Amare,

        Keep it up.

        Thanks

    • 0
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      Hamlet nangiyo,
      .
      What a question ? This has nothing to do you being cathelic or not, but where seasonality is there, in winter climates, infections grew up than other parts of the world. Yet today, look at Africa and Asian countries where higher tropical climates ar ethere, are still record only much less numbers.
      Just imagine, islands can control there boarders much better even if ballige putha led SRILANKA failed to do so. See in europe alone, England has controlled it much better than any other border countries in Europe. We know perfectly well that the carriers are humans that aer infected before.
      Had srilankens been led by an educated PRESIDENT and PRIME minister, we would be free from Covid 19 today, – just imagine, how far poor Nepal controlled it irrespective their tourist arrivals are double more than that of ours. And vietnam, how they keep the number that lower.?
      :
      Besides, if we would make every efforts to put that on religious beliefs rather than not thinking by brain… so we could speculate as you do…. please think twice before you pass the kind of thoughts.. even if almost everyone be rich or poor, be cathelic, hindu buddhist or muslims all are met with COVID -19.

      Thanks and I hope this help you to bring you back to your senses.
      Stay healthy!

  • 11
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    All Corona dead must be cremated. No washing. No touching. No exceptions.

    • 9
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      That is the best solution for disposal of corpses.

  • 5
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    Faith in the Divine messages, has been the glue that holds people together.

    Discussion guideline on hot line

    1. Face-covering muslim do now mostly are doing
    2. Burial of funeral Time one day muslim do all are now it is ordered to do
    3. Washing Exposed parts muslim does before praying 5 time now evry body is asked to wash hands more ferquently.

    • 4
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      Faith in the Divine messages,….. caused the crusades, inquisition, witch burning and all the horror going on in the Muslim world Syria, Iraq, the hangings in Iran , religious police, the raped Yazidi women….all due to blind belief.

    • 1
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      rbh,

      Reason is above Revelation- Ibn Rushd, aka Averroes, Islamic Scholar, Judge and Philosopher.

      COVID-19 is making it abundantly clear, and calling the bluff of the Ulama and the Priests and Popes, and they are stumped and exposed on their unproven Divine beliefs of Revelation.

  • 7
    1

    If the “Role the Religion tries to Play” is to demand that cadavers resulting from the pandemic be handled unhygienically, how can the role be called positive? That is negative and destructive.
    /
    For heaven’s sake, Muslims need to grow out of this and other mythical beliefs that arose in the desert from the preachings of a pedophile. Such retarded belief systems make them selfish, inconsiderate and obdurate misfits in the modern world.

    • 0
      0

      Your right. This is the last excuse left as now the Chinese, Italian……..The oldest two schools cricket match……Airport lapses……Casinos……..are now all forgotten and now even with the blessings with Ada….. news channel the blame finally come to the …………. Cheers.

  • 1
    3

    Cremation pollution and dust in the and vaporization air a screening such toxic is to be a appropiate act

  • 7
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    That is all very fine just make sure you do all your gatherings remotely. Don’t spread this killer in the name of religion,

    • 0
      0

      Abhaya,
      HOW COME YOU BECAME THAT INTELLIGENT today ?
      .
      This is the first time ever I was compelled one your meaning ful comment.
      :
      Thanks for that.

  • 1
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    Here is an original saying of mine: “Religion is the opium of the masses.”

  • 1
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    I didn’t read the essay. There is nothing to read in these type of fake propagandas. In Lanakwe all four main religions have caused pain to people who are suffering by the Covid-19 infection and the curfew by it. These are worse than Aanduwa which is using Covid-19 for its racial justification and for additional loans for arms purchases.

    There is a saying in Tamil “Debtor will not let out until your death, Barber would not let go even if you die (last shaving and hair cut to the corpse), the Brahmin would not let you even after many years of death (Soul’s payments-Thana). The religions are ultimate pain for the suffering people. Time to ban all four religion on the Wildlife Sanctuary Constitution like America. Keep those in only in your kitchen!

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