Elijah Interfaith Institute, Israel. From: Tablet
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.
Maria Voce, Italy
Maria Voce is president of the Focolare Movement, international organization that promotes the ideals of unity and universal brotherhood. This interview, conducted on behalf of Elijah in Italian by a Focolare journalist, profiles the centrality of love as a religious ideal that informs the movement and that receives particular expression during the COVID-19 crisis. It is love the informs Voce’s decisions and actions during the crisis. Love is also the antidote to fear, one of the most common reactions, and hence challenges raised by the Corona virus. A mother can throw herself into the flames to save a child from burning; a mother can face bombings to escape with her child - even under the bombs - to save that child. A mother's love is able to resist the feeling of fear without it going away. Love, of course, informs solidarity at these times, and we learn of activities undertaken by the movement in this spirit. Solitude and staying at home should not block love, but make room for love. And love should be creative. Let love suggest not hundreds but a thousandways we can be there for others, whether they are nearby or far away, also by using all the technical meansavailable to us. We must face the pain and problems that may still come in future, even when this pandemic is over, believing there is Someone who brings history forward for our good and that this Someone is God who is Love, who loves everyone and who therefore cannot fail to bring good out of all these situations.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, USA
Feisal Abdul Rauf is an American Imam of note. He is Sufi by orientation, a thinker and author, a peace activist and a long term practitioner of interfaith dialogue. Abdul Rauf positions his spiritual journey as an attempt to gain a God’s-eye view of reality, a perspective he also applies to the Corona crisis. Corona is a process of testing and uniting humanity could be its goal. Our choice is whether to turn Corona into a unifying or a polarizing force. The role of religious leaders is to cultivate a vision of unity in the image of God. God’s unity manifests in the twofold love command: love of God and love of neighbor.
Sr. Jayanti, England
Sister Jayanti is the European Director of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University and their NGO Representative to the United Nations, Geneva. The study of scripture is a powerful tool by means to raise the mind above the present moment and the fears it generates. Nourish your mind and you will receive strength for the day. So is meditation. Take a break every two hours for meditation, even if brief.And so is prayer when it is truly talking to God. The highest form of prayer is the engagement of love when the soul communicates with the divine. Solidarity manifests in meditation, that brings to light our fundamental unity and soul consciousness. Stop for a short time, focus on the highest of all, the one who is the supreme, so that thatlight and might can reach everyone and help the world. That is the most important contribution we can make at this time. This recognition leads to a facilitated meditation guided by Sr. Jayanti.