How Are Major Religions Responding to the Coronavirus?

The religious practices of hundreds of millions of people are undergoing profound changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic caused by a new coronavirus. The crisis has prompted many religious leaders to appeal to their followers to not only take safety precautions but also to embrace their spirituality to help confront the health, social, and economic challenges ahead.

How has the pandemic disrupted religious observances?

A Buddhist monk provides hand sanitizer to another monk. Both wear orange robes and surgical masks.
Buddhists monks wearing protective masks due to the coronavirus outbreak use alcohol gel as they take part in a ceremony at Wat Suthat Thepwararam in Bangkok, Thailand. Chalinee Thirasupa/Reuters

In some cases, religious gatherings have proven to be hotbeds for outbreaks. Half of South Korea’s cases can be traced back to a meeting of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a Christian denomination. In Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, several hundred Muslims who attended a mosque service contracted the virus, and in Washington, DC, a rector tested positive for the virus after performing communion at an Episcopalian church with more than five hundred congregants, all of whom were asked to self-quarantine for two weeks.

Many religious authorities are closing places of worship or limiting public gatherings. In an extraordinary gesture in February, Saudi Arabia banned foreign arrivals and halted visits to Mecca and Medina for umrah, a religious pilgrimage that Muslims can undertake at any time of year. Riyadh also briefly shuttered the Great Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina for disinfection. Many mosques have canceled Friday services, and calls to prayer in countries such as Kuwait and Malaysia have been altered to tell people to pray from home. Buddhist New Year celebrations, which often bring thousands of people together for public water fights and other events, have been canceled across South Asia.

A crowd of Hindu devotees covered in multicolored dye raise their hands above their heads in prayer.
Hindu devotees raise their hands daubed in colors as they pray at a temple during Holi celebrations in Ahmedabad, India. Amit Dave/Reuters

Religion

 

Expressions of faith in some religious services emphasize close contact, such as hand-holding and sharing communion in Christian churches and touching or kissing religious objects at synagogues. Such practices are now being avoided in many religious spaces. At the same time, some religious orders have embraced technological solutions. The Roman Catholic Church, for instance, has begun livestreaming the Pope’s daily mass and Sunday sermon, and some parishes are offering drive-through confessions. A livestream of a service at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, drew more than twenty-five thousand viewers earlier this month.

FULL ARTICLE FROM COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS

Muslim and Jewish paramedics pause to pray together. One of many inspiring moments in the coronavirus crisis

200326123906-israel-emergency-services-praying-exlarge-169Jerusalem (CNN)There was barely any time to pause.

Avraham Mintz and Zoher Abu Jama just finished responding to a call regarding a 41-year-old woman having respiratory problems in the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva.

Before that, they were checking on a 77-year-old man. There would be more calls ahead. Of that, there was no doubt.
As the clock neared six in the afternoon, Mintz and Abu Jama realized it may be their only break of the shift. The two members of Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s emergency response service, paused to pray. Mintz, a religious Jew, stood facing Jerusalem, his white and black prayer shawl hanging off his shoulders. Abu Jama, an observant Muslim, knelt facing Mecca, his maroon and white prayer rug unfurled underneath him.
For the two paramedics, who routinely work together two or three times a week, the joint prayer was nothing new. For so many others, it was an inspiring image in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic.
A picture of the two men snapped by a co-worker quickly went viral, garnering thousands of likes on social media and appearing in international media coverage. One user responded on Instagram: “I’m proud of all of the rescue services, it doesn’t matter from what community or religion.” On Twitter, another user said: “One fight! One victory! Let’s unite.”
“The fact that it is so simple makes it so powerful. I believe that Zoher and I and most of the world understand that we have to raise our heads and pray. That’s all that’s left,” Mintz told CNN. A father of nine who lives in Be’er Sheva, the 42-year-old is a full-time MDA worker who trains volunteers.

Covid-19: Christians, Jews and Muslims join in prayer in Jerusalem

FILES-PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-HEALTH-VIRUSThe Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land reflects on the significance of a common prayer raised to the Lord by believers of the three Abrahamic religions in the sacred city of Jerusalem.

By Linda Bordoni

The leaders of the three Abrahamic religions – Christians, Jews and Muslims – prayed together in Jerusalem on Thursday amid the global Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic.

The initiative, taken by the Mayor of the Holy City, took place at 12.30 pm local time at Jerusalem City Hall and saw the presence of representatives of other faiths as well, including Druze and Bahai.

Speaking to Vatican Radio before the common prayer, the Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land, Father Francesco Patton, highlighted the significance of this moment and explained that every religion was to recite a prayer according to its own tradition.

Listen to Franciscan Fr. Francesco Patton

“We will be together to pray to the Almighty God that this pandemic may stop,” Fr. Patton said explaining the initiative has a deep spiritual significance.

“It is important in itself because we are all believers with the same roots; and thanks to this same root we can express with faith and with confidence our prayer to God the Almighty,” he said.

The common prayer comes on the heels of a joint communiqué, issued on 21 March, in which the leaders of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Latin, Greek Orthodox and Armenian) expressed their hope that “in this dangerous situation all the children of Abraham could pray together to the Almighty to ask for protection and mercy”.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VATICAN NEWS 

CAN THE POWER OF PRAYER ALONE STOP A PANDEMIC LIKE THE CORONAVIRUS? EVEN THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD THOUGHT OTHERWISE | OPINION

Prophet-MuhammadThe COVID-19 pandemic is forcing governments and news sources to provide the most accurate and helpful advice to the world’s population, as the disease is indeed global in reach. Health care professionals are in high demand, and so too are scientists who study the transmission and effect of pandemics.

Experts like immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci and medical reporter Dr. Sanjay Gupta are saying that good hygiene and quarantining, or the practice of isolating from others in the hope of preventing the spread of contagious diseases, are the most effective tools to contain COVID-19.

Do you know who else suggested good hygiene and quarantining during a pandemic?

Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, over 1,300 years ago.

While he is by no means a “traditional” expert on matters of deadly diseases, Muhammad nonetheless had sound advice to prevent and combat a development like COVID-19.

Muhammad said: “If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague outbreaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.”

He also said: “Those with contagious diseases should be kept away from those who are healthy.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NEWSWEEK 

What Islamic hygienic practices can teach when coronavirus is spreading

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Eds: This story was supplied by The Conversation for AP customers. The Associated Press does not guarantee the content.

Rose S. Aslan, California Lutheran University

(THE CONVERSATION)

As outbreaks of the coronavirus spread throughout the world, people are reminded over and again to limit physical contact, wash hands and avoid touching their face. The recent Netflix docuseries “Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak” illustrates how the Islamic ritual washing, known as “wudu,” may help spread a good hygiene message.

The series focuses on Syra Madad, a Muslim public health specialist in a New York hospital, who takes a break to say her prayers at the Islamic Center of New York University. Before entering the prayer room, Madad stops to perform wudu, and washes her mouth and face as well as her feet.

Islamic law requires Muslims to ritually purify their body before praying. As a scholar of Islamic studies who researches ritual practices among Muslims, I have found that these practices contain both spiritual and physical benefits.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

In a Pandemic Religion Can be a Balm and a Risk

mosqueBEIRUT, Lebanon — Down on earth, the coronavirus outbreak was felling lives, livelihoods and normalcy. A nation-spanning blessing seemed called for. So up went a priest in a small airplane, rumbling overhead at an epidemiologically safe distance from the troubles below, wielding a sacred golden vessel from a cockpit-turned-pulpit.

Before his flight over Lebanon, a soldier at an airport checkpoint asked the Rev. Majdi Allawi if he had a mask and hand sanitizer.

“Jesus is my protection,” said Father Allawi, who belongs to the Maronite Catholic Church. “He is my sanitizer.”

Religion is the solace of first resort for billions of people grappling with a pandemic for which scientists, presidents and the secular world seem, so far, to have few answers. With both sanitizer and leadership in short supply, dread over the coronavirus has driven the globe’s faithful even closer to religion and ritual.

But what is good for the soul may not always be good for the body.

Believers worldwide are running afoul of public health authorities’ warnings that communal gatherings, the keystone of so much religious practice, must be limited to combat the virus’ spread. In some cases, religious fervor has led people toward cures that have no grounding in science; in others, it has drawn them to sacred places or rites that could increase the risk of infection.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Religious heads breach Cyprus divide for virus prayers

WireAP_c75c23a33db944cbab3785186603bebf_16x9_992Christian and Muslim religious leaders reached out Friday across the divided island of Cyprus in a rare show of unity for prayers to overcome the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Archbishop Chrysostomos II, head of the Cyprus Orthodox Church, Turkish Cypriot Mufti Talip Atalay and the Armenian and Maronite religious leaders issued the joint call.

They urged “all other religious and faith community leaders in Cyprus and all sisters and brothers of faith to join them in prayer and action to fight this pandemic together”, in a statement issued by an interfaith group of the stalled UN-sponsored peace process.

They made a special mention of “all doctors, nurses, medical, paramedical personnel and all caregivers who are struggling daily to confront the consequences of this virus”.

They also called on the faithful to “pay very serious attention” to the strict social distancing measures enforced on both sides of the island’s UN-patrolled ceasefire line.

Both the Greek Cypriot-administered south and the Turkish Cypriot have closed schools and shut down clubs, bars, restaurants, prohibited indoor leisure activities and banned all competitive sports.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FRANCE 24