Coronavirus briefs: Religion in the time of pandemic

Despite the empty pews, religious practice is flourishing during the pandemic. (Photo credit: miltritter/pixabay.com)
Despite the empty pews, religious practice is flourishing during the pandemic. (Photo credit: miltritter/pixabay.com)

Religious practice is as much about community as it is about faith. In this brief, The Daylighter conducts a short survey of how spiritual communities around the world are responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

Islam: Keep it clean

Cleanliness is an important part of Islamic belief and practice, and its importance is resurgent in Muslim countries, where top clerics have successfully called for worshippers to pray and wash their hands at home rather than attending packed mosques.

In the United Arab Emirates, for example, a clerical fatwa (religious edict) has ordered that it is “a religious obligation for all segments of society to strictly adhere to all public health directives and regulations provided by the dedicated state agencies … frequently washing hands with soap and water, for cleanliness is part of the teachings of Islam.”

Source: Deutsche Welle

United States: Drive-in, FM and digital services

The separation between church and state in the United States is being severely tested during the pandemic, but most faith communities have adapted by implementing some form of remote service.

People are still physically coming together — but at one church in Nebraska, parishioners are staying in their cars in the parking lot, and tune into the services on their FM radios.

In New York and San California, Jewish communities are holding services, including bar mitvah ceremonies and Friday night seders, using social-media services such as Zoom and Facebook Live.

And a Des Moines Zen center is also using Zoom to conduct community meditations and study.

Source: Refinery 29, J Weekly

Pennsylvania: Amish at risk

The Amish of Pennsylvania, like other rural dwellers in the state, vary in their response to the pandemic — some believe the threat is real, while others “think that this virus is a political ploy,” Steve Nolt, a scholar of Amish culture, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Amish are particularly at risk due to their relatively limited access to media, multi-generational households, and practice of holding packed religious meetings in private homes, with men all shaking hands ahead of time.

Penn State University’s Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health has reached out directly to Amish and Old Order Mennonite farmers in the state in a letter that asks the conservative faith community to act quickly to take preventive measures against COVID-19.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

Cambodia: Can Buddhism adapt?

Cambodian monks continue to perform live and broadcast services in this strongly Buddhist nation, in defiance of government orders.

Yet in at least one temple, according to VOA Cambodia, attendance is sparse and well-distanced, alcohol-based sanitizers are abundant, and canceling services is still on the table.

Meanwhile, some farmers are turning to folkloric practices intended to keep disease out — such as putting up menacing scarecrows and lighting bonfires.

Source: VOA Cambodia

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