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A global call to prayer

A global call to prayer
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As we speak, the coronavirus continues to plague our world. In Italy, 29,000 people have died. In the UK, 28,000 people have succumbed to the virus. In Spain and France, 25,000 souls have perished. And the United States has lost 69,000 people to the coronavirus. In New York sate alone, an estimated 18,000 people have died and there were so many dead people that too many were compelled to cremate the bodies, for it was too difficult to arrange a proper funeral.  

What the coronavirus has done to our world is merely tragic. Across the globe, far too many people have lost their jobs, resulting in us facing perhaps the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Worldwide, nine out of ten children are out of school. A third of the world is under some kind of coronavirus lockdown In numerous countries across the planet, the lockdown has caused increased domestic violence and rape within the family. No matter where you are on the planet, people are immensely suffering due to the coronavirus pandemic. That is why May 14 has been set aside to be a global day of prayer by people of faith across the world, in order to implore God to bring this global pandemic to a halt. 

In this spirit, the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, which includes both Muslim and Christian leaders, has called for May 14 to become a day dedicated to “fasting, works of mercy, prayers, and supplications for the good of all humanity” so that God ends the pandemic. In a statement on Saturday, the HCHF urged people worldwide regardless of language, color or faith to implore God through acts such as fasting, prayer or charity to ward off the pandemic.

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“We implore God to help us overcome this pandemic, to restore security, stability, health, and prosperity so that our world may become, after this pandemic, a better place for humanity and fraternity to live in,” the statement said. The committee called on religious leaders and people around the world to respond to this call to safeguard humanity.

Pastor Saeed Abedini, a UN Ambassador of Peace who frequently engages in inter-faith dialogue, has called upon members of all faiths to pray to the one good God, so that through the power of our relationship with God this pandemic can be brought to a halt: “The Bible recommends us to pray and by praying, we start our relationship. It represents our request to our almighty God.  Prayer brings us back home to our heavenly father. By praying, we can overcome. Prayer equips us and we find ourselves in him. Prayer does not change God but it definitely changes us. Jesus teaches us how to pray in the Bible. Romans 8:26-27 help us to pray with spirit.”  

Romans 8:26 declares, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the spirit, because the spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Pastor Abedini also suggests that people read Psalm 23, which declares: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear evil for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” He proclaimed: “It is a vessel in the strong hand of God to not be lost or shaken but a proud child of the father. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”

Chabad Rabbi Tzi Wilhelm believes that prayer is critical at all times but especially amid a pandemic: “We need to pray every morning when we wake up for our clothes, food, our health, happiness, everything. However, the nature of man is not to say thank you for what we have. Then things happen in order to cause man to see that everything should not be taken for granted. Even breathing is basic. However, for some, that is difficult. Now, we know that there is someone above us that gives us something. Now, we understand the clue that we must pray so that there will be health and other good things, until there will be a complete recovery for everyone across the world.” Jewish people around the world traditionally read Psalms 13, 90 and 91 in order to protect themselves and those that they love from a plague. 

Dar Al Ifta, Egypt’s official fatwa-issuing body, has similarly declared that people should not panic nor fear hardships: “Rather, a Muslim must pray and trust in Allah, for Allah will surely heed his prayers and save him from this affliction if he takes the necessary precautions and measures to stay healthy, as posted by the relevant authorities… For it is said 'do not cast yourselves into destruction with your own hands; do good, for Allah loves those who do good' [Quran 2:195].”

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 Two Hindu organizations, Iskcon and the Ramakrishna Mission, have already been engaging in prayers in order to bring the global pandemic to a halt for people across the planet. However, while heeding the global call to prayer on May 14 is critical, irrespective of our race, religion, nationality, and gender, we must also take concrete actions in order to help people suffering in the wake of the pandemic. Advocate Govinda Pramanik, president of the Hindu Mahaoiot, said, “During the pandemic, my organization has been helping Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians by providing relief.”  

IsraAid, an Israeli humanitarian organization, is similarly seeking to provide relief to people suffering from the coronavirus across the planet, irrespective of religion, race, nationality and gender: “COVID-19 is a global disaster that leaves already vulnerable communities around the world - like refugees and populations recovering from disaster — at greater risk. For these communities access is key to getting through this immediate crisis and preparing for what comes next. From health and hygiene information, to safe water and soap, to mental health support, IsraAID's teams around the world are working day and night to reach these communities in the face of lockdowns and the ongoing threat of coronavirus.”

Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights. She is also the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media."