Coronavirus and Religion update – 14 April

By Lianne Kolirin

UK

Tributes have been pouring in for the popular north London rabbi, Avrohom Pinter, who has died from the coronavirus.  Community leaders and politicians alike have taken to social media to express their sorrow at the passing of Rabbi Pinter, an influential and leading figure of Stamford Hill’s Strictly Orthodox community.  A long-time member of the Labour party and  Hackney councillor, Rabbi Pinter was remembered by many politicians, including his local Labour MP, Diane Abbott, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, and shadow justice minister David Lammy. While deeply involved with his own community,  Rabbi Pinter was praised for his inter-faith work too. Last night Hackney Muslims tweeted: “The passing of Rabbi Pinter will be felt widely through the community. So many times the first to reach out, bonding and strengthening our wonderfully diverse community  here in Cazenove/S.Hill/Hackney & beyond. Love & thoughts with his fam. Gonna miss ya heaps Rabbi P  #Legend”

An initiative launched on Easter Sunday, aims to connect those in need during the coronavirus pandemic, with more than a thousand churches from 40 denominations. ‘YourNeighbour.org  offers counselling for those in difficult circumstances, as well as help with more basic things like food shopping and medicine collections. It is an initiative of the Good Faith Foundation, a newly formed charity, which seeks to combat social exclusion by bringing people together.  A statement on the site reads: “If you need help during this time, we are here for you. We will connect you to a church nearby, who can help with a friendly phone call, shopping, prescriptions, advice or pastoral support.”  The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, supporting the project, said that a thousand churches had become involved within a week. He told the BBC:  “YourNeighbour.org is designed to help people in churches or alongside churches alongside other community activities and the NHS volunteers and is a way of encouraging fresh volunteers; making phone  call, buying food and keeping in touch with people who for all sorts of reasons can’t get out.”

In London, millions of pounds worth of the Church of England’s belongings  have been transferred to the Tower of London as a precautionary measure during the coronavirus lockdown. Artefacts from 400 churches, including paintings as well as “rare and unusual silver”, have been moved to the tower and other “secure locations” in a bid to stop thieves from targeting empty churches at this time.  A spokesman from the Diocese of London told The Telegraph that some items are so rare they cannot be fully valued.  “The focus of the operation has been about preserving and protecting heritage, as London’s priests and churches act as stewards of so much of the capital’s rich history,” he said.  Precious items were stored at the tower during both world wars because of the tight security.

GLOBAL

The Chris the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro been transformed into a doctor as it was illuminated in an Easter tribute to frontline health workers.  Flags of countries affected by the outbreak  were projected onto the monument, which towers over the Brazilian city, as well as a call for the public to stay at home.  During the Easter Sunday light show, Rio’s  archbishop Dom Orani Tempesta performed a mass at the statue’s base, paying tribute to medical workers.

A 1,000-year-old monastery in Ukraine has been sealed off by the authorities after emerging as a coronavirus hotspot.  Two members have died there and more than  90 others have contracted Covid-19, accounting for a fifth of those diagnosed in the capital Kiev, according to Reuters.   Doctors and mobile X-ray machines have been  dispatched to the sprawling Kiev Pechersk Lavra complex, the headquarters of the Russian-backed wing of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church known as the Moscow Patriarchate.  The church had initially asked worshippers  to ignore government-imposed lockdown measures, urging people to come to worship and hug each other. It later fell in line with quarantine rules,  but last week, Metropolitan Pavel, the monastery’s head,  said he had underestimated the problem.  Police now guard entrances to the monastery, known for its labyrinthine caves housing the mummified bodies of monks, and medical teams take the temperatures of those going in and out.

Monkeys, cows and pigeons at a revered Hindu temple in Nepal have been at risk of starvation as the government lockdown has banished worshippers who usually feed them.  Now guards, a few staff and some volunteers  have taken on the responsibility of feeding the animals at the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, AP reported.  It is common  for devotees to feed cows, which are worshipped by Hindus, and monkeys, believed to be descendants of the Hindu god Hanuman. Cows line up the path leading to the temple and the banks of the Bagmati River, while monkeys roam freely around the forested hill  next to the shrine.  “We are trying to make sure that these animals  are not starving and they are taken care of,” said Pradeep Dhakal, an official of the Pashupatinath Development Trust, which controls the temple and surrounding areas.