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COVID-19: Exploring Faith Dimensions
Religious Celebrations and Vaccination Issues Alongside Intersections with Race and Gender

In the week of continued Passover observations and the celebration of Easter, COVID-19 continues to intersect with and often disrupt religious practices around the world. Governments debated restrictions on gathering in the weeks leading up to celebrations, debates that will undoubtedly continue as Ramadan starts. The importance of these rituals is clearer than ever for those that celebrate. An op-ed explains that the meaning of Passover, and the continuation of the ritual seder between generations, has new significance in this second pandemic year. Meanwhile the Vatican provided vaccinations to homeless people in Rome in the run-up to the Pope’s Easter Mass. 
Rappler ran a three-part series titled “Religion, the Pandemic’s Unseen Force,” which covers death, rituals, and mental healthdebates on religious gatherings; and faith and the vaccines, focused on East Asia. These three themes have emerged as some of the most regularly mentioned areas of debate on religions and the pandemic, and they are the main areas covered by the rest of the news we’re reporting on this week. 
Religious gatherings and rituals have remained in the news since the beginning of the pandemic, with some now reflecting on a whole year of changes and creativity in response to pandemic restrictions. One report highlights that communities have lost important income from tourism, but rituals such as the Riwo Sangchö (Mountain Incense Smoke Offering) have helped Sikkimese Buddhist communities protect and cleanse through this smoke-based ritual. 
Faith and vaccination news continues with new guidance materials and ongoing debates around religious messaging on vaccines. The InterFaith Youth Corps with Religions New Service has a dedicated Faith and Vaccines page with a growing number of articles, including a live list of resources mostly relevant to a U.S. audience. Tearfund has released a new guidance document on vaccination for use in humanitarian and development settings with faith groups and religious leaders, including a section on what churches can do. 
Religious leaders speak out both for and against vaccines. For example, some evangelical leaders in the United States are now preaching to their congregations to take COVID-19 vaccines when offered to them, including the prominent leader Franklin Graham. From another angle, researchers on cults (and new religious movements) have warned against derogatory language and dismissiveness when it comes to vaccine resistance and instead propose that anti-vaxxers be studied as a type of new religious movement. If so, the researchers’ experience investigating these groups points towards the need to deeply analyze anti-vaccination beliefs and not see these groups as “beyond” the reach of public health and community engagement work. 
People’s intersecting vulnerabilities remain a necessary aspect of analysis. Reports this week focus on race and gender as some of the most significant aspects that affect experiences in the pandemic, from Black church leaders encouraging vaccine uptake to increases in violence against women and why faith actors must be involved in violence prevention. 

And finally, one columnist for The Guardian reflected on what it means to be faithless in the pandemic, concluding that it has meant a loss of fellowship and shared meaning for many.

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