Our shared vulnerability to the coronavirus pandemic reveals “our common humanity”, the UN chief said on Tuesday during an online meeting with religious leaders on the important role they can play, in limiting the damage caused by COVID-19.
“It lays bare our responsibility to promote solidarity as the foundation of our response – a solidarity based on the human rights and human dignity of all”, Secretary-General António Guterres explained. “And it highlights the crucial role of religious leaders in your communities and beyond”.
Joined by leaders from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, the UN chief cited previous public health crises, including HIV/AIDS and Ebola, noting how spiritual leadership had been a positive benefit in terms of community values, attitudes and actions.
“And with this influence comes responsibility to work together, putting aside differences, and to translate our common values into action”, he underscored as he highlighted four pivotal ways they can help reverse the pandemic, and aid recovery.
First, he asked them to “actively challenge inaccurate and harmful messages” along with rejecting xenophobia, racism and “all forms of intolerance”.
It was important to “categorically condemn” violence against women and girls, which is on the rise, he said, and “support shared principles of partnership, equality, respect and compassion”.
“Partnership also means ensuring women’s equal voice and representation in all spheres”, he told the virtual discussion.
He called on leaders to leverage their networks to support governments in promoting public health measures, such as physical distancing and good hygiene and to also practice these during faith-based activities, including worship services and burials.
Finally, as the world’s students are out of school, he urged faith leaders to “support the continuity of education” so that learning never stops
General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande highlighted the unique role of faith, saying that it gives “hope to the hopeless” and in times of anxiety, “can be a significant source of comfort and community resilience.”
During this “unprecedented threat”, he said that religious leaders and faith-based organizations have an even greater role to play “in saving lives and mitigating the spread of the disease”.
“We look up to them to share credible information and stand up against rumours, violence, and the incitement of hate and advocate for the needs of vulnerable populations”, stressed the Assembly President.
As COVID-19 related restrictions have closed churches, synagogues and mosques worldwide, he noted that many religious leaders have swiftly adapted by taking worship online. He also lauded their engagement with youth in developing messages on social media, “making them effective partners” in raising awareness on preventative measures.