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"Has the COVID-19 crisis strengthened or weakened people's faith?"

31 May 2020

On Sunday 31 May, we held our third Zoom event since the coronavirus lockdown began. The recording is below.

We discussed the impact of the crisis on faith with he title "Has the COVID-19 crisis strengthened or weakened people's faith?"

The online event had 24 participants from all faiths and none, including Salford City Councillors and our Co-Founder Afzal Khan CBE, MP for Manchester Gorton. Our Former Co-Chair Jonny Wineberg again facilitated the Zoom event management.

Co-Chair Cllr Heather Fletcher introduced the two speakers:

  1. Solicitor Jawad Amin from Khizra Mosque
  2. Cllr Rabbi Arnold Saunders.

Jawad Amin

Jawad Amin found that overwhelming numbers of Muslims he had spoken with during the pandemic had connected more strongly with their faith.

In his experience the pandemic had given people a chance to slow down and think more about their religion, learn more about its teachings and about Islamic history. While there were a few exceptions, most Muslims he knew, including himself, were now closer to their religion than they had been before the pandemic and lockdown.

More money had been given to charity recently, and people seemed more kind-hearted, caring, and willing to help others. For many he knew, faith had kept them going in these difficult times. However, Jawad cautioned that many people's faith could be tested at a late date when they faced the loss of employment.

Arnold Saunders

Cllr Rabbi Arnold Saunders could understand why one's faith could be challenged at this difficult time. However, he felt that people who had more faith would overcome this obstacle more easily.

Like Jawad Amin, he also considered that many Jewish people's faith had been strengthened in this unprecedented period.

Rabbi Saunders pointed out that this was the first time in living memory that the Synagogues had been closed. Judaism had adapted to these challenges by using Zoom to hold funerals, Shiva Houses (Houses of Mourning), some services, and community activities such as quizzes.

He had noticed that many Jewish people had attended such Jewish activities online who would not have done so in person. Accordingly, the crisis had paradoxically made it possible to reach out to other less religious people in the community.

Rabbi Saunders remarked that many prayers could be recited at home, which led him to fear that may result in some people not attending synagogue as regularly when synagogues finally reopened.

Finally, he mentioned that Google searches for the word "prayer" had shot up. There were 50% more searches for this word in March than February, indicating that people were turning more to faith.

Video recording

Zoom allows events to be recorded. The video below contains Heather Fletcher's introduction + the two talks summarised above.

Subsequent discussion

After the formal speakers, Co-Chair Mohammed Amin chaired the discussion amongst the participants. The recording is not being published as it was informal, and all participants would need to give consent.

In the lively discussion, many agreed with the main speakers' views that their faith had strengthened during the crisis, while others commented that it had made no difference at all to their level of faith.

One Muslim participant had felt Ramadan was lacking without community Iftars but also thought this quieter time had made him reflect more.

A Jewish participant said that she had not enjoyed Passover or Shavuot as much while staying at home because she normally celebrates these festivals with many in her community through shared meals and attending the Synagogue.

Peter Scott said: “The zoom meeting was run and chaired very well. I, as a non-believer, was keen to see how people of different, but connected, faiths would interact and share their thoughts, and I was very pleased by the mutual respect. My question about the challenge of a second peak was approached very generously by the speakers, two very kind and open people, who dealt well with the challenge this would present to faith.”

Sara Radivan, who is Jewish, said: “I thoroughly enjoy Muslim Jewish Forum events as I enjoy mixing with my Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters.  I particularly enjoyed this event as it was interesting to hear how most of those who attended, including myself, have developed, rather than lost, our faith during lockdown and how belief in our respective faiths has brought us all together.”

Anne Isaac, who is Muslim, said: “My Sufi friend mentioned that her Sheikh in 2011 had said that that a virus would occur in 2019. This is obviously very striking in terms of the religious power such a saying can have.  For me, I have found it easier during this lockdown to follow religious duties as I have had more time to act and reflect.  I am aware other people said the same thing during the discussion.”

 

 

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The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester
Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish Communities of Greater Manchester

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