Premier World Religious Leaders Reflect on Spiritual Challenges and Opportunities of Coronavirus

coronaspection-  liders

Special issue curated by Alon Goshen-Gottstein

  • Introduction
  • Contents of Coronaspection
  • Project trailer
  • Format of Interview
  • How you can benefit from Coronaspection
  • Prayers and meditations
  • How you can help Coronaspection


The past months have placed the entire world before unprecedented realities due to the Corona virus. A time of great hardship requires spiritual guidance and a time of global crisis requires the wisdom of religious leaders, coming from all religions. Elijah set out to bring together the voice of members of its Board of World Religious Leaders, as well as other prominent leaders, in addressing the COVID-19 crisis. Following the success of our Make Friends initiative, we embarked on a series of video interviews with almost 40 religious leaders worldwide. 15 countries, 7 religions are represented in a project that speaks to all of humanity, across countries and across religious differences. We are happy, as much as one can be happy with the present moment, to bring this treasure of religious thought, reflection and advice to you. Coronaspection is being released as part of Elijah's website, accessible through a dedicated URL presented below. We are also delighted to announce that the entire project is serialized on Tablet Magazine. Beginning today (June 8) and over the coming month, Tablet will feature Coronaspection interviews every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We will follow a similar schedule and feature the same videos, along with additional resources and commentaries, on our Facebook page.


Contents of Coronaspection

Coronaspection is a library of spiritual messages emerging out of the present coronavirus situation. At its root is the full interview conducted with 39 religious leaders. All of these are seen and named in the images accompanying this announcement. In addition, we have extracted short gems of wisdom from the interviews. Each of these stands on its own and delivers a message. These messages that are of long-term spiritual significance and not limited to the COVID-19 situation. Finally, there are several composite clips, in which voices of different leaders are brought together on a particular theme that is dominant throughout the interviews. For the launch of the project, we are happy to share all the full interviews, as well as a project trailer, designed by Dario Helman, a filmmaker who was instrumental in the design and fulfillment of the project.


Project Trailer - A Message of Unity and Solidarity

The project trailer features solidarity and unity as key messages that emerge out of the global pandemic, messages that have become even more relevant in light of recent global attention to issues of systemic racism. As Elder Jeffrey Holland of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints states in his interview: "Life is Precious - Everybody Matters. These moments are universal". The sentiment is echoed by major faith leaders of all religions: "All of humanity is one", affirms Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, or as Armenian Patriarch Mashlian succintly notes: "The brotherhood of humanity is a scientific fact". Yahya Cholil Staquf, secretary general of the world's largest Muslim organization, based in Indonesia (Nahdlatul Ulama) states: "Physical and Social Borders are becoming more and more irrelevant." Accordingly, confirms Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, head of the Masorti movement in UK, "What happens to one will ultimately happen to all". Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury concludes: "There's an interconnectivty that allows the spread of evil and of sin and of fear and of resistance to the other...the challenge is, can we transform interconnectivity to a connectivity of compassion, generosity and love?"

Format of Interview

Almost all contributions to the project are in the form of an interview with Elijah director Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein. The interview format allows the conversation to flow in such a way that the fundamental spiritual approach of each religious leader is brought into light and with it - its implications for addressing the spiritual challenges of COVID-19. The basic format of all interviews consists of the following seven questions:

  1. What have been your greatest challenges in dealing with the present Corona crisis?
  2. Corona is bringing out a lot of fear in people. How does one deal with fear? What spiritual advice could you offer to people struggling with fear?
  3. Corona has forced people into solitude. How should time be spent in solitude? Many people do not have experience and habits that would allow them to make the most of this opportunity. What advice could they be given?
  4. Corona brings about deprivation. We are deprived of our freedom, of our habits. We lose things, and even more so- people we love. How does one deal with all forms of deprivation?
  5. What does Corona teach us about our interconnectivity? What are spiritual applications that people can practice consciously?
  6. Corona forces us into our own protective space, but it also calls us to solidarity. How to practice solidarity? What are teachings that support solidarity? What actions express solidarity? What can one do to express solidarity, even from within the confines of one's home and protection?
  7. Many people say the world will be different after this Corona crisis. What blessings do you see Corona bringing to the world? How can the world be different, for the better, following this crisis?


How you can benefit from Coronaspection

Coronaspection is a testimony to how religion functioned in a situation of extreme distress. How did religious leaders act, what service did they provide and what teaching did they offer when the need was greatest? In the course of the interviews, I approached some leaders from Corona-stricken areas, in an attempt to get a view of how Corona affected their reality in real time. This explains why Italy is so dominant in the project. It was a conscious attempt to use these interviews as a lens for studying religions, in their diversity, and how they functioned in a time of crisis. But more important is the other perspective, that inspired me to undertake the project. Coronaspection is an attempt to articulate spiritual wisdom and how it can serve believers, of all faiths, at this point in time. Timeless truths of religion are applied to understanding the moment and to providing believers with insights and approaches by means of which to cope with some of the challenges articulated in the lead questions.


Prayers and meditations

Coronaspection is also a compilation of prayers and meditations that grow out of coronavirus days. Most interviews conclude with a prayer, thereby making Coronaspection more than just a collection of insightful or interesting interviews. The project also provides us with resources for our inner life. In addition to prayers, many of the participants offer guided meditations, for dealing with fear and for orienting our minds. These, of course, are useful under many circumstances, and are not limited to the Corona crisis. A catalogue of key elements of each of the videos provides an overview of the project and its diversity and allows the viewer to identify specifically meditation teachings offered by participating leaders.


How you can help Coronaspection

We need the help of each and every reader of our Wisdom newsletter to help Coronaspection do its work. Treasures must be discovered and used. We need your help in disseminating the fact that Coronaspection has appeared. We ask you to share this email message with your networks - religious leaders, academic contacts, interfaith groups, and your friends. Please let them know this has come out and that they can benefit from it. When you watch a video, please share, using the tools that Youtube makes available. Please share it on your Facebook page. Please consider the project your own and contribute to its success. A final word of gratitude goes to the Hershey Foundation and to Forum Humanum Foundation for enabling us to launch the project.

Thank you
Alon Goshen-Gottstein

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