Coronavirus and religion – update 25 March

By Aina Khan, 25 March 2020

  • More than 400,000 people have signed up to volunteer with the National Health Service in a single day in a recruitment drive aimed at relieving pressure on the NHS. Among them are retired medics and final-year student nurses and medics.
  • The funeral of Fuad Nahdi, a prominent Muslim interfaith activist and journalist who founded the pioneering Muslim magazine Q-News was held in London yesterday. Government restrictions meant attendees of the funeral were limited to only immediate family, though thousands of mourners watched the livestream around the world on Facebook. Nahdi, who suffered from cancer for the past 13 years, died in intensive care on Saturday before tests for the coronavirus were complete.
  • The United Synagogue has announced today that stone-setting ceremonies, an important tradition in Orthodox Jewish funerals when a headstone is placed at the grave, will be postponed and attendance at funerals must be limited, until the government relaxes social distancing restrictions. The synagogue has also shut cemeteries, and has advised that those sitting shivah, the seven-day period of mourning, cannot have visitors.
  • Chris Bryant, the former Church of England vicar and Labour MP, has called for funerals to be filmed to allow family members of the deceased to feel “somehow engaged”. Although weddings, baptisms and other social gatherings have been banned after the government’s announcement on Monday of a nationwide lockdown, funerals are still permitted although the Church of England and the National Association of Funeral Directors have advised limiting attendees to immediate family members only.
  • The Keswick Convention, an annual gathering of evangelical Christians that was to be held in Lake District on 11-31 July, has been cancelled. The organisers say on their website: “Public health is the priority and so we will not be holding this year’s event. Given the circumstances we know there will be support for this decision though understandably it is tinged with disappointment given the enjoyment and benefits the convention brings. We are already making plans on how we can share elements of this year’s convention online and are working on the most relevant and inspiring way to do this.”