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Religion can help tackle Covid, meeting told

19 June 2020

Faith leaders and faith-based aid agencies met with government officials last week

JASON BRYANT

A verger at Wells Cathedral, Keiron Rowley, lights a candle, on Sunday, after the cathedral opened for individual private prayer, in line with Government guidance (News, 12 June)

A verger at Wells Cathedral, Keiron Rowley, lights a candle, on Sunday, after the cathedral opened for individual private prayer, in line with Government guidance (News, 12 June)

RELIGIOUS leaders and faith-based aid agencies have held a meeting with government officials and ministers to discuss the impact of religion in tackling the coronavirus around the world.

Representatives of faith communities and charities, including the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, and the chief executives of Christian Aid, World Vision, and Tearfund, were present at the virtual meeting on Monday of last week.

Chaired by the Minister for Human Rights, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the discussion centred on how people of faith were both integral to ending the pandemic and often among the most vulnerable.

“As the coronavirus pandemic continues to have an unprecedented impact on communities around the world, we know — more than ever — that we will only succeed in fighting it if we do so together,” Lord Ahmad said.

“That is why I am hugely grateful to our faith leaders and faith-based charities who are doing so much to tackle the virus’s devastating spread, by providing support and advice for the most vulnerable. Today, I repeated our commitment to work alongside them to fight this disease, and to gain their insights and advice on what more can be done.”

The Prime Minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion and belief, Rehman Chishti, said that, in some countries, people of minority-faith backgrounds were more vulnerable to the “secondary effects” of Covid-19. “I stand with faith leaders and faith-based organisations as we work together to help communities in need,” he said.

Charities, including Christian Aid, Tearfund, and World Vision, are working with refugees and the poor around the world who face increased danger because of the virus. In poorer nations, lockdowns have prevented people from working and families from feeding themselves.

Christian Aid’s emergency Covid-19 appeal states that the money raised will, in part, be used to help their trusted faith-leader partners around the world inform people about the risks of the coronavirus, and train their communities in hygiene measures, besides providing food and other essentials.

This tallies with guidance from the World Health Organization, which said, at the start of the pandemic, that religious institutions had a vital part to play as a “critical link in the safety net for vulnerable people”.

“Religious leaders are integrated into their communities through service and compassionate networks and are often able to reach the most vulnerable with assistance and health information and identify those most in need,” the document notes.

In a joint statement with Islamic Relief and the Roman Catholic development charity CAFOD — also present at the meeting — the agencies said: “We know from our long experience working with some of the world’s poorest communities that trusted faith leaders will be crucial for raising awareness and challenging misinformation among those most vulnerable during this pandemic.

“Faith leaders are rooted in their communities and understand their challenges and needs. We hope that the Government will understand this, and work more closely and meaningfully with faith institutions who are part of the front line in tackling this pandemic.”

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