Looking Toward Long-Term Impacts of COVID-19
The situation of children during the pandemic both remains a concern and has garnered increased interest. The World Council of Churches’ podcast
focused on the issue of child protection during the pandemic with Cornelius Williams, UNICEF, and Rev. Patricia Bisnauth, Presbyterian Church in Guyana, expressing concern for increased violence towards children during lockdowns and encouraging faith groups to do more to protect children.
COVID continues to have effects on religious practices. In India, concerns about contamination and for human and environmental health changed practices around the Ganesh Visarjan ritual
, in which statues of Ganesh are paraded to the sea and then immersed in the water. In Mumbai, in order to minimize large public gatherings, the ritual has been changed to small gatherings in constructed pools around the city, with people handing their statues to municipal workers who will immerse the statues in the pool. Environmentalists hope that this new tradition will continue - the previous practice resulted in 150,000 non-biodegradable plaster statues released into the sea per year in Mumbai.
Lockdown restrictions are now showing long-term effects on religious communities, from Catholic schools closing across the United States
, to the economic and spiritual hit from restrictions on religious tourism
around the world, to religious leaders “from Nigeria to Zimbabwe”
worrying that restrictions to gathering will lead to crises of faith, and Kenyan Muslims considering the impacts of government restrictions on burials
. While these accounts from Muslims in Kenya detail how government restrictions and Islamic teaching can dovetail, other circumstances highlight deep divides between government decisions and practices in some religious communities. For example, tensions heightened in Israel
as coronavirus cases soared among ultra-orthodox neighborhoods (80% of new infections), leading government officials to focus on these areas for targeted measures.
As these changes and tensions occur, faith actors continue to provide services, from spiritual support to health care and food, to communities around them. Even as more reports of women religious dying on the frontlines of care for coronavirus patients
came out, another report highlighted how faith-based health care providers in rural locations in eSwatini and Ethiopia have been neglected
, with limited personal protective equipment supplies, staff, and facilities.