A spiritual community in Bali has been the subject of online ire since the weekend for allegedly hosting a crowded gathering last week, after photos from the event show dozens of people blatantly ignoring social distancing protocols despite rising coronavirus cases on the island.


House of Om, a spiritual community/holistic school located in Gianyar regency and about a half hour drive from the center of Ubud, posted on Instagram early last week the details of a “bhakti evening” set for June 18. They called on people to “invite as many friends and family as you want,” and noted that the participation cost of IDR50,000 (US$3.54) will be collected to support the local village. 

They also wrote their intention of having more than 100 people for the event “in order to co-create an amazing celebration together.” The post has since been deleted from their Instagram account, but screenshots of the post have been circulating online, such as this one:

A screenshot of the original invite to the event, which has since been deleted from their Instagram.
A screenshot of the original invite to the event, which has since been deleted from their Instagram.

The community then shared a number of photos on Facebook following the scheduled event, showing dozens of people sitting close to one another with no masks on, and completely disregarding social distancing protocols.

Unsurprisingly, the event soon gained public attention online, especially after it was shared by Indonesian screenwriter Jenny Jusuf on Twitter, who called out the blatant ignorance on her platform. 

social distancing? ❌
masker? ❌
kurang dari 20 orang? ❌
lokasi? ubud.
ada orang indonesia di sana? kalau dari foto2 sih kayaknya nggak.

jumlah orang terinfeksi #COVID19 di bali makin meningkat.

apakah mereka peduli? ❌

cc @BaleBengong@ditjen_imigrasi@imngurahrai@Indounikpic.twitter.com/in2lFaSwgQ

— Jenny Jusuf (@JennyJusuf) June 20, 2020

The online outrage was first met by denial by House of Om founder Wissam Barakeh, who told Kumparan just yesterday that the photos were taken in December, prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Those photos were taken in December 2019, and we have done our yoga programs for years. Surely we’d have photos from last year, which we use for promotional purposes,” Barakeh said.

However, it’s a different story altogether this morning, as Barakeh took to Instagram to issue a statement of apology and claiming full responsibility for the events that did take place last Thursday.

Screenshot of the apology post, which has since been deleted from their Instagram account.
Screenshot of the apology post, which has since been deleted from their Instagram account.

“I take full responsibility for the event that took place on June 18. Where many people came to our school. It was a big mistake that does not make any sense amid the difficult situation we are facing right now. Our community truly loves and appreciates Bali and the people of Bali,” Barakeh wrote in Indonesian. 

He also explained that the community has been doing charity work in the past couple of months, alleging that the event last week was a fundraiser intended to help people who are most in need. 

“I deeply apologize for the serious risk I have created based on what we’ve done. I apologize to all the people in Bali for our irresponsible actions,” Barakeh, who replied to a comment on Instagram saying that he is from Syria, continued. 

Jenny has also shared Barakeh’s apology to her Twitter followers, and commented on the “half-hearted” nature of his apology and the fact that he did not admit to his lie about the photos having been taken in 2019. 

“I hope that the Bali government will firmly act on these types of foreigners. If everything ends with just a mere apology, they will not learn their lesson,” Jenny tweeted. 

It remains to be seen whether Barakeh will be sanctioned over his actions by local authorities in Bali, though this is sadly not the first time such blatant ignorance over social distancing protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic has occurred in Bali. 

Earlier this month, authorities raided an entertainment establishment in Canggu after footage circulated widely online, showing very few partygoers wearing face masks or observing social distancing measures at the venue. 

Coronavirus cases in Bali have now surpassed 1,000 cases, with the current total at 1,045 as of yesterday afternoon. Bali has seen a rise in local transmissions in the past few weeks, with such cases now making up more than 67 percent of the provincial total. 

More than three months since the first confirmed cases in Indonesia, the country has recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, with more than 45,000 confirmed according to the latest official data.

Editor’s Note: We have updated this story to include a screenshot of the original apology post from House of Om published on Monday, as the post has been deleted from their Instagram account. 

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