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COVID-19: Exploring Faith Dimensions
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.
Upcoming Event
September 10, 10:00 a.m. EDT
Dueling Pandemics: Faith, HIV, and COVID-19

The webinar will explore challenges and hopes around COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS, first engaging a proposed strategy that is the product of a broad-based reflection launched in September 2019 at the Berkley Center as a challenge to faith communities, and then taking stock of the impact of the COVID-19 emergency. The discussion will focus on two issues: Given the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, how should the religious response to HIV change so that progress towards ending the HIV pandemic by 2030 is sustained? What are the most effective strategies for religious communities to battle HIV and COVID-19 at the same time?

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