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COVID-19: Exploring Faith Dimensions
Clashes and Conflicts
Well into the seventh month of living with COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions in many places, some are beginning to feel frustrated that even as other businesses such as retail stores and restaurants are allowed to open their doors again, churches and other houses of worship in the United States are still severely restricted in some places. This was the view expressed by Salvatore Joseph Cordileone, archbishop of San Francisco, who argued for the right to worship in an opinion column two weeks ago. In various places across the country, including the District of Columbia, some churches are suing the government, alleging that violations of the First Amendment have occurred. On Friday, September 25, the U.S. Department of Justice got involved, calling on Mayor London Breed of San Francisco to end the one-congregant rule at places of worship, warning that it could infringe on the First Amendment right to exercise religion and discriminate against people of faith. Churches continue to clash with the government in South Korea as well, where a second church is now implicated in a new wave of COVID-19 infections that has threatened to reverse the country's early success in controlling the virus, according to reports from the Washington Post and NPR.
Meanwhile, government restrictions are not the only place where tensions emerge. Ten musical ensembles are distraught after St. Martin-in-the-Fields, one of London’s most prestigious churches, announced it would be “concentrating on in-house provision, using its own professional musicians, and aiming to generate more income.” The church has been accused of using COVID as a cover to break off ties with the freelance performers who have worked with the church for 30 years. 
A new report on South Asia argues that the coronavirus pandemic has not initiated new trends but has instead fostered more intense versions of already-familiar challenges, including Hindu majoritarianism and Muslim marginalization in India, restricted civil liberties and demographic restructuring in Kashmir, anti-state protest and military encroachment in Pakistan, and Taliban mainstreaming in Afghanistan. Declines in the quality of democracy are tied to uneven, segmented patterns of state legitimacy in South Asia, particularly with respect to socially and politically marginalized Muslims (India and Kashmir) or particular groups of Muslims (Pakistan and Afghanistan).

Lessons about universal health care and disaster preparedness can be learned from Sri Lanka’s response to the pandemic, and faith as a source of individual strength during difficult times from incarcerated persons living in fear of contracting COVID-19 in crowded quarters. As the world anxiously awaits a coronavirus vaccine, Pakistan’s efforts to combat misinformation about the polio vaccine highlights the importance of religious framing in certain contexts when sharing information about inoculation.
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