West Midlands faith groups are stepping up to the challenge of adapting practices during the current Coronavirus pandemic.
The government’s restrictions which include a ban on gatherings to try to control the spread of coronavirus have resulted in the cancellation of church services and mass, suspension of prayers and daily activities at mosques, gurdwaras and prayer halls.
However religious groups across the West Midlands are exploring alternative methods of connecting with their followers and proactively and safely caring for vulnerable members of local communities. Religious groups are also joining forces to urge members, and the public in general, to be wary of fake news during the current crisis. They are calling for everyone to ensure they rely only on trusted news sources and not to spread anything they doubt to be factually correct.
A joint statement released today between attendees of the Mayor and Faith Conference and Citizen UK draws out the solidarity between faiths in tackling the crisis:
“Fighting the Covid-19 pandemic to keep us all safe and well is our region’s top priority. The rapid spread of the virus throughout the world is unprecedented but we are working together to overcome it. The best way to achieve this is to follow Government advice: stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. This message comes with clear instructions around self-isolation and social distancing that inevitably affects our work, family and community life.
“Our region’s faith and non-faith communities are acting on this challenge together. We have closed doors to all services in our places of worship; some of us have mobilised hundreds of volunteers and are working to get aid to the most vulnerable in a safe and secure way. We are all working out how religious occasions can be celebrated virtually. We welcome the opportunities which the current environment offers to find new ways to be communities of faith.
“We are concerned about the spread of fake news targeting particular communities on social media, and how this contributes to creating a hostile environment in a time where we need to be working together. We urge everyone to rely on information from trusted and credible sources and strive to work in solidarity to overcome Covid-19. We must remain united and be there for each other, these are challenging times that will require the best of our humanity.
“Our thoughts and our prayers are with those who have suffered or are suffering as a result of Covid-19.
“Above all, we call on all communities, during these difficult times, to live as people of hope; that the threat we all face can and will be overcome, and that we will emerge stronger, more resilient and wiser from the experience.
“We remain stronger together.”
In 2018 the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, launched the Faith Action plan to form the basis for strong collaboration between the Mayor’s office, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and the region’s faith groups.
He said: “This pandemic has changed how all of us lead our daily lives, and religious practice is no exception.
“Many religious rites that have been performed for centuries are currently not viable, but I am pleased to hear that alternative ways round this are being explored. Naturally the community response from faith groups has been swift and generous. I’ve heard lots of heart-warming examples of communities being supported by volunteers from their local faith institutions.
“However sadly during these difficult times some people see it is an opportunity to spread rumours about certain religions and their practices. I would urge everyone to please only share information from reputable sources.”
Assistant Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine from West Midlands Police chairs the Strategic Co-ordination Group (SCG) which oversees the multi-agency response in the West Midlands. She said: “The SCG fully supports the collaboration between the region’s faith groups, the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Mayor’s office.
“There is clearly some fantastic work being carried out by the various faith organisations to support our communities at this very difficult time, it is so important that we all come together as one big community to support and help one another.”
Anyone who wants further information about current changes to religious services should contact their place of worship directly.