SINGAPORE - The coronavirus pandemic may have disrupted religious services and activities around the world, but leaders of various faiths have stepped up to help their communities and others cope with the crisis.
A group of religious leaders, academics and social advocates from various faiths and countries came together for an international webinar on Friday (Sept 11) evening to exchange their experiences and discuss the role faith leaders can play as the world continues to grapple with the challenges posed by Covid-19.
Hosted by local Muslim voluntary welfare organisation Jamiyah Singapore, the event was opened by President Halimah Yacob, who said: "The Covid-19 pandemic has no doubt disrupted our lives and livelihoods. In this time of uncertainty, it is natural for many to turn to their faiths for source of strength and solace.
"This evening's webinar is an opportune platform for inter-faith leaders to share insights on how we can all play an important role in promoting solidarity and mutual understanding between people of different races and religions."
Acknowledging that the pandemic is far from over, Madam Halimah said that an effective response would also require everyone in the community to do their part.
"We will also need to help our people manage the social, psychological, emotive and spiritual impact of the crisis," she added.
Madam Halimah added that she was heartened that many faith leaders had continued their work of strengthening trust between different communities and rallying their faith communities to stay united and resilient during this challenging time.
"Many have also reached out to help those affected by the pandemic, regardless of race, language or religion. I applaud these interfaith efforts," she said.
The webinar saw participants share their perspectives and experiences on the on-going pandemic, and reflect on efforts that could be initiated to strengthen understanding between people of various faiths.
Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, who is the president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue at the Vatican, said: "The pandemic has aggravated deep inequalities which exists in our societies. There is a need for care and inspired action to address these."
He noted how followers of all faiths had been affected, saying: "We have seen people struggling to cope with death and grief, unable to be with their loved ones at their deathbed to perform last rites and funerals for their deceased in a dignified manner."
Cardinal Guixot added: "Our collaboration can also expand to the education of values that will preserve a post-Covid-19 world from a culture of indifference, selfishness and other social ills made visible by the pandemic. Serving a wounded world in inter-religious solidarity is one such example."
Another speaker, Venerable Associate Professor Phramaha Hansa Dhammahaso of Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University in Thailand, spoke about the material and emotional help provided by monasteries in his country during the pandemic and cautioned people to maintain social distancing and protect themselves in order to protect the community.
"The way you protect yourself, is the way you care for people in society. The way you love yourself, is the way you love other people. Please take the best care of yourself in order to take the best care of others," he said.