Coronavirus and Religion update – 21 April

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Ramadan food

By Lianne Kolirin


  • The Muslim Council of Britain has issued guidance on observing Ramadan under lockdown.  The largest umbrella group of Muslims in the UK says Ramadan, which begins this week “will be a very different experience for Muslims all over the world during the COVID19 lockdown in accordance with public health advice”.
    During the annual practice, Muslims abstain from food, drinking, smoking, sexual intercourse and non-essential medicine from sunrise to sunset. The breaking of the daily fast at sunset is ritually marked by a small meal of dates and a beverage, after which the sunset prayers are said. It is recommended to do this at a mosque, which can obviously not happen this year.
    With congregational acts of worship suspended and social distancing in place, the MCB recommends streaming Islamic lectures, praying at home and organising “virtual iftars with extended family and the community through the many online video calling facilities available”.
    Menus for these iftars – evening meals which end the daily fasting – should be planned in advance to “limit multiple shopping trips and limit exposure given social distancing measures”.
    The advice also seeks to ensure good mental health. “Life can be full, and we try to fill it with more worship during Ramadan,” states the guidance. “We all want to pray more and this can help with anxiety but it is important to be good to yourself – sometimes it is quality over quantity.”
  • Accident and Emergency consultant Manjeet Singh Riyat, who worked for the Emergency Medicine Service in Derbyshire for 20 years,  has died of coronavirus at the age of 52. He is believed to be the first Sikh A&E consultant to die from the virus and was well known and highly respected locally and nationally by medical and faith communities.

  • Almost 300 of those who have died of Covid-19 in Britain have been Jewish, according to the Board of Deputies of British Jews. As of Sunday 20 April,  300 Jewish funerals had been carried out, a rise of four since the day before. The figure represents just under two per cent of the overall death toll in Britain, which stood at just over 16,000 on the same day.  The Board of Deputies is liaising with six of the largest denominational burial boards and the Orthodox burial boards in Manchester to collate an indicator of deaths where Covid-19 was a factor. In a statement, the Board of Deputies said: “We wish their families a long life and pray that the memory of their loved ones should be for a blessing.”
  • The next Archbishop of York has praised churches for their “creativity” under lockdown and said he hopes the virus will encourage people to change their lifestyles. The Rt Reverend Stephen Cottrell, now Bishop of Chelmsford, will take over the post in June. In an interview with Premier Christian News he said the pandemic had changed the way we live – but that we must not go back to “normal” once it is over.  “Normal has not served us terribly well. Normal has been killing the planet, normal has meant most of us were working far too many hours, making far too many unnecessary journeys. There’s lots that we have learnt from this – don’t get me wrong, this pandemic is absolutely awful – it is the most terrible thing that I’ve experience in my lifetime by a long, long way, there’s nothing good about it. But that doesn’t mean God can’t bring good out of it.”
    Positives include changing the way we work and appreciating those whose work is “essential for our wellbeing”, he said.  “Of course, first and foremost, we’re thinking about the health service, but I’m also thinking of the people who stack the shelves in Tesco, those who drive through the night in delivery lorries, we have a new appreciation for those people now.”


  • The Prince of Wales paid tribute to survivors of the Holocaust and refugees from the Nazis as “living heroes” in his address to the live-streamed Yom Hashoah commemoration last night.  Prince Charles, patron of Holocaust Memorial Day and World Jewish Relief, described the survivors as shining examples of how it is possible to triumph over adversity. He said they were determined not just to survive but to thrive, as they built new lives, new homes and new families here in the United Kingdom. The ceremony, held online because of coronavirus,  featured videos of six Holocaust survivors and refugees lighting a yellow candle in memory of those who died.

  • German bishops are pushing for church services to be reintroduced after lockdown measures were eased by Chancellor Angela Merkel.  The ban on worship is “difficult to understand in view of the relaxations in other fields of public life,” according to Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, president of the German bishops’ conference, the Tablet reported.  Cardinal Rainer Mari Woelke of Cologne agreed, saying: “Now that [some of] the suspensions are being lifted, the churches must be opened for public services.”  On 17 April,  German religious leaders met representatives of the Federal Republic and the German states to discuss their concerns, but the regulations remain.


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