Inspiring interfaith moments during the coronavirus pandemic

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The coronavirus pandemic has crossed borders and cultures indiscriminately, affecting people’s lives regardless of their race or religion. While the global crisis has caused much anxiety and suffering, it has also inspired moments of interfaith unity - with believers, ranging from world leaders to medical workers, connecting across religious divides in a sign of solidarity.

This interreligious engagement is more important than ever, said Secretary General of the Muslim World League Mohammad Al-Issa in an interview with Al-Monitor on Sunday, adding that the need for interfaith partnership will continue beyond the current crisis.

Here are five interreligious moments inspired in response to the COVID-19 outbreak:

Thirteen religious figures lead digital interfaith prayer session

On Wednesday, 13 prominent religious leaders from around the world held a virtual interfaith moment “for hope and solidarity,” organized by nongovernmental international organization Religions for Peace. Participants included the Muslim Grand Mufti of Uganda, a Catholic Archbishop in Nigeria, the Baha’i representative to the UN, as well as leaders from the Hindu, Zoroastrian, Jain, Jewish, and other traditions, who all spoke from their homes around the world for a one-hour spiritual session.

The session, broadcasted on Facebook, ended with a shared interfaith commitment that pledged both prayer and action in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jerusalem’s religious leaders unite to pray for the end of coronavirus

In the city of Jerusalem, Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders came together on Thursday to pray for the end to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Representatives of the Druze and Baha’i faiths were also present.

Catholic leader Father Francesco Patton told Vatican News the common prayer was important as it recognized the shared Abrahamic root between the three traditions and that “thanks to this same root we can express with faith and with confidence our prayer to God.”

Joint prayer between Jewish and Muslim paramedics goes viral

Just south of Jerusalem, two paramedics in the Israeli city of Beersheeba took a break on Tuesday during their shift. Both men used the time to pray next to each other: Avraham Mintz, a follower of Judaism, stood facing Jerusalem, while Zoher Abu Jama, a Muslim, knelt in the direction of Mecca.

A colleague took a photo of the joint prayer, which went viral on social media.

Twitter user Helen Ford Ward called the moment “a beacon of light during a human crisis,” in a tweet.

“A sight to behold in this catastrophic time,” user Mahir Abbas posted in a tweet.

Interreligious disinfection and food campaign in Pakistan

Muslim volunteers on Tuesday entered mosques, churches, and temples in the Pakistani provinces of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to disinfect places of worship as a COVID-19 preventative measure, and then distributed food and necessities to Muslim and non-Muslims residents alike.

The initiative was led by political party Jamaat-e-Islami’s social welfare wing.

“Serving the mosques, churches, temples…is a practical step toward religious harmony,” the party’s information secretary Qaisar Sharif said in an interview with Arab News, adding that the volunteers helped seven churches, five temples and two gurdwaras – places of worships for the Sikh denomination.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Pope Francis discuss brotherhood in confronting COVID-19

In a telephone call on Sunday, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan discussed cooperation amid the spread of the coronavirus with Pope Francis, the spiritual leader of more than a billion Catholics around the world.

The Crown Prince expressed his hope that Italy and the Vatican will overcome the crisis and stressed the support of the United Arab Emirates, according to the UAE’s state news agency WAM.

Both leaders called on “the spirit of brotherhood, harmony and initiative” to confront the global challenge of the coronavirus and talked about ways to adopt the principles of the landmark interfaith “Document on Human Fraternity,” signed by the pope and Egypt’s Grand Imam of al-Azhar Dr. Ahmad al-Tayeb in Abu Dhabi last year.