On 1 April, senior religious leaders from 10+ traditions and their communities commit to solidarity and action in the wake of a global pandemic—over 80 countries connected online
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(6 April 2020 | Global) The gong of a singing bowl heralded a “call to prayer” heard around the world on 1 April. Religious leaders from Indigenous, Jewish, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Jain, Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Sikh, and Bahá’í traditions virtually convened 10,000 believers in over 80 countries to call for health, compassion and strength in the time of COVID-19. The moment was organised by Religions for Peace (RfP), an interfaith peacebuilding platform, which has been catalyzing actions and common language for peace for 50 years.
The global pandemic has forced the world’s religious institutions adapt to an unprecedented situation: a world where believers cannot be physically convened. In a joint commitment read aloud to conclude the virtual gathering, the believers committed to “respecting the value of scientific knowledge… as part of [a] spiritual obligation to care for all living things.” Many of the leaders shared the struggles that their communities are facing economically, politically and socially. John Cardinal Onaiyekan of Nigeria called for solutions that account for the dramatic reality experienced in his country: “How can I instruct people to wash their hands when many cannot access clean water? How can I keep social distance when ten people share one room?”
Secretary General of Religions for Peace, Prof. Azza Karam, said the experience was unique in her extensive tenure of mobilising religions for human rights and development. “The commitments made by thousands of diverse believers – to be sources of comfort, knowledge and hope – underscores why it is of the upmost importance to honour the contributions of religious institutions during this pandemic. This massive global infrastructure will allow us to emerge from the time of COVID-19 with a greater sense of our responsibilities towards each other.”
The interfaith Moment of Hope and Solidarity was led by Dr. Vinu Aram as RfP Moderator and director of the Gandhian development organisation Shanti Ashram. Prayers and reflections were offered by RfP’s leadership including Metropolitan Emmanuel of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of France; Rev. Kosho Niwano, President-Designate of the world’s largest Buddhist lay organization, Rissho Kosei-kai; Chief Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee; Sheikh Shaban Mubaje, Grand Mufti of Uganda; Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, Chairman of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, and many others.
From New York to Jerusalem to Tokyo, hundreds of participants shared prayers, fears and hopes during the live stream. A participant from Pakistan thanked the religious leaders, saying the moment, “gave us hope in these troubled times and renewed our faith,” urging all to work together for the common good. Another participant in Japan prayed, “Let there be peace on earth. Let me be more considerate of others. Let it begin with me.”
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