This was what His Eminence Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue shared at an international webinar held on Sept 11 entitled “The Covid-19 Pandemic Crisis and the Role of Faith Leaders” organised by Jamiyah Singapore, the oldest and biggest local Malay-Muslim welfare organisation.

The webinar brought together local and international faith leaders and scholars from major religions; the universal and local Catholic Church were represented by Cardinal Ayusoand Sister Theresa Seow, FDCC (Canossian Daughters of Charity), the Vice-Chairperson of the Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Interreligious Dialogue (ACCIRD) respectively.

The Guest-of-Honour was Mdm President Halimah Yacob. In her opening address, she said that, during this time of uncertainty, it was “natural for people to turn to their faiths for strength and solace.” She applauded interfaith efforts at building trust, unity and resilience through reaching out to those in need, regardless of race, language or religion.

The first of the international speakers, Cardinal Ayuso observed that faith leaders were naturally drawn to the religious dimension of the crisis; empty churches, mosques and temples exemplified the “spiritual deprivation” of the pandemic. The solution, said His Eminence, was hope, prayer and solidarity:

  1. Hope “fortifies the human will” and “transforms lives, pointing to something beyond the present world.”It inspires believers to love and care for those who suffer the “tragedies of the human condition.”
  2. Prayer is “a powerful tool” that casts out all fear; we need to come together and call upon God in “a prayer of universal brotherhood for the good of all.”
  3. Solidarity can be manifested in “collaborative faith initiatives” that include “education of values that will preserve a post-Covid-19 world from a culture of indifference, selfishness and other social ills.”

Sr Theresa, who is also the Honorary Secretary of the Inter-Religious Organisation, Singapore, shared that, in this time of the pandemic, although we have to be isolated, we are not in isolation; in solitude, yet in solidarity with one another. This is “a time to uphold sacredness of life,” she said, a time to “slow down, be more contemplative and make time for our own community.”

Sr Theresa concluded that Covid-19 has made us realise that “awareness of God in our midst has grown and become more important. God lives in homes and in the lives of the people around us. The new normal is a world where the sacred works with the secular to help those in need.”

Contributed by ACCIRD