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COVID-19: Exploring Faith Dimensions
Continued Focus on Longer-Term Impact of COVID-19 Emergencies

Earlier this month, a new journal article published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities highlights the ways in which Black churches promote not only spiritual renewal but mental resilience and coping mechanisms amidst societal racism, in particular for church-going older African Americans. Closing churches due to COVID19, along with vast health care inequalities, are likely to cause long-term and immediate negative effects. 
One faith-based global development organization, Islamic Relief Worldwide, has seen its individual giving numbers go up since the pandemic started. Naser Haghamed, IRW’s CEO, explains that 80% of the organization’s income comes from individuals and 20% from institutions. This donor makeup means that large aid cuts from government institutions have affected them less. Since mosques have largely been closed and community events canceled, the organization had to rely on innovative types of digital fundraising. During Ramadan, when charitable giving tends to spike, Haghamed noticed that people were more generous than usual as they were thinking of others worse off than them.
Pope Francis addressed the vast social inequalities highlighted by the pandemic in a new encyclical that laid out his vision for a post-COVID world. The Pope said the pandemic has proven that the “magic theories” of market capitalism have failed and that a new type of politics that promotes dialogue, solidarity, and rejects war and violence is needed. The document, inspired by the teachings of St. Francis, also drew on the Pope’s previous preaching on the injustices of the global economy and calls for greater human solidarity to confront these dark times.

In Brazil, evangelical missionaries have been accused of proselytizing and spreading COVID-19 alongside the word of God. With tacit if not explicit backing from the government, the New Tribes Mission of Brazil (also known as Ethnos36), termed an “evangelical conquista” by the author, has been trying to reach by helicopter and convert remote indigenous tribes, even in March as the pandemic raged. These missionary operations risk spreading COVID-19 and other infections to people highly vulnerable to outside diseases. For decades, the New Tribes Mission has made contact with Indigenous communities and tried to convert them. In the past, the Brazilian government has tried to protect tribes that choose to live in isolation. However, a former missionary from the Mission was recently elevated to a government position within Brazil’s National Indian Foundation and is now in charge of coordinating isolated and recently contacted Indians. This is seen as a tactical move to turn evangelical goals into policy and to empower other missionary groups to contact remote tribes. The article argues that Indigenous rights should be respected and protected by the law, and that proselytizing and the spreading of diseases by outsiders leads to irreparable damage to the Indigenous peoples of Brazil and other remote tribes who possess the right to self-determination.
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