Alon Goshen-Gottstein, Executive Director of the Elijah Interfaith Institute, Israel, is the author of The Jewish Encounter with Hinduism: History, Spirituality, Identity.
There is a special power in the coming together of religious leaders in their diversity to deliver a message at a given point in time, especially a time of global crisis. Forty important voices are taking part in this project. I am grateful to editors of Tablet magazine for their eagerness to feature the project in its entirety.
Together, we set out to answer seven questions:
What have been your greatest challenges in dealing with the present Corona crisis?
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?
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?
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?
What does Corona teach us about our interconnectivity? What are spiritual applications that people can practice consciously?
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?
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?
One of the most important conceptual threads that runs through the project is the recognition that for all its hardships, the coronavirus is in some way also a blessing. To uncover that blessing we may need the eyes of the other and the experience of another spiritual tradition and how it is able to find blessing even in hardship.
Pope Francis, Vatican
Pope Francis has sent a message of support and contribution for the “coronaspection” project., based on his ongoing daily teaching. Responses to our guiding questions are taken from the many messages he has been putting out in relation to the present pandemic. His message is deeply couched in the preaching he is engaged in, especially around the time of Easter. The Corona finds us afraid and lost like the disciples. We have constructed our lives around false certainties. Fear is to be met with hope. We are called to faith, that is a movement of trust in God. This is a time for our choosing between what matters and what passes away, a time to get our lives back on track. Life in the spirit shows us how all our lives are interwoven, pointing to their unity. We discover that life is of no use if it is not used for the service of others. This is not a time for indifference, self-centerdness or division. Our deepest joy comes when we say yes to love, without ifs and buts.
Rabbi Shmuel Ricardo Di Segni, Italy
Rabbi Di Segni is Chief Rabbi of Rome. He shares his experience as head of a Jewish congregation in Italy, hard hit by Corona and struggling to keep up its spiritual practices and the faith of its members.Prayer is a particular challenge in these times, given the communal nature of Jewish prayer. We cannot perform the prayers properly. Unlike churches that remained open for personal prayer, the synagogues are shut. The challenge is finding the value of being isolated. It calls for greater intention in the practice of prayer. This is a blessing in disguise. There is a huge thirst for learning and an increase in the audience. Messages issued to the Jewish community have reached beyond and had an impact on the Christian community as well. The Rabbi’s role emerges as threefold – educational, making legal decisions and pastoral and psychological support. We must put the hardships of the moment in context by recalling the long history of hardships we have undergone and that we have overcome. This includes also earlier instances of the plague in Rome itself.
Ven. Chân Không, Vietnam
Ven. Chân Không is closest disciple and collaborator of Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. Corona helps us awaken past our selfishness. Corona allows us to think of the other and to discover our interconnectedness and unity. It invites us to discovering a way of living together peacefully. Corona allows us to stop running and to connect with ourselves, thereby allowing us to rise above fear. Venerable walks us through a process of meditation by means of which we can be in the present moment and overcome fear and loss.