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COVID-19: Exploring Faith Dimensions
COVID-19 and Ramadan; More on Faith Support for COVID-19 Vaccinations

Beginning April 13, many believers worldwide started to celebrate Ramadan. In Qatar, an assistant professor at Qatar University’s College of Health Sciences was motivated to publish an article that would dispel fears of followers who were worried that lack of daytime food and water during the fasting hours may make people more susceptible to COVID-19. The article concluded that fasting can improve overall wellness and could boost the immune system of healthy adult Muslims. Similarly in the United Kingdom, two leading Muslim National Health Service (NHS) figures have stressed that Ramadan should not stop anyone from getting the COVID-19 vaccine, as many were concerned that getting the vaccine would break fast during daylight hours over Ramadan. Many NHS vaccination sites in England are extending their operating hours to Muslims so they can receive the shot after they have eaten in the evening.
In select Southern cities in the United States, faith leaders are adopting a faith-led effort to fight vaccination hesitancy that was previously used to fight substance abuse. The Clinton Foundation has been assembling a grassroots network of faith leaders to counter the opioid crisis on the basis that faith leaders can be positive forces and messengers for spreading information and hope. In Texas, Tennessee, and Arkansas, faith leaders have been educated in using the foundation’s year-long curriculum in supporting substance abusers and their families. Leaders that complete the course then recruit and teach others. The basis of the initiative is that faith leaders are not only able to reach people in rural areas, but are trusted to negotiate public health information and deeply held beliefs about the healing power of faith and the role of government intervention.
In the Vatican, employees are taking Pope Francis’s pro-vaccine stance very seriously. Any Vatican employee who refuses to get the vaccine without a valid medical risk could be fired. The directive cited the need to protect Vatican employees in the workplace as well as having the moral responsibility to protect others. This decree stoked a heated debate last week because of the generally voluntary nature of the COVID-19 vaccine in Italy. However, the Vatican is an absolute monarchy that operates independently of Italian law and Italian labor protections. There are around 5,000 employees at The Vatican and it could possibly be the first country to complete its adult vaccination campaign if all employees agree and meet the health standards to be inoculated.
A recently published article in the Journal of Religion and Health found that while both religious and non-religious medical students volunteered to help battle the COVID-19 pandemic in Poland, a study found that altruistic motivations were more common among religious students while egoistic and professional motivations were more common among the non-religious. Of the 417 students surveyed, it was concluded that a student’s religiosity was not a major predictor of volunteering during the pandemic, but it played a significant role in determining their motivations to join the fight against the pandemic. The researcher noted that, “even in the case of students who defined themselves as deeply religious, pure altruism was not the only motivation, as most respondents volunteered to gain skills, connections or some kind of psychological satisfaction.... Thus, it should be acknowledged that the motivations of many students were often a mixture of altruistic and egotistical drivers.”
Budget cuts linked to the COVID-linked economic slowdown are an explanation (or excuse?) given for sharp reductions in foreign aid in the UK. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and other faith leaders protest that aid is more needed now than ever.

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