The Foundation for Islamic Culture and Religious Tolerance (FICRT) has organised an online event to reflect on the role of religion in times of crisis

Religions need to find a consensus to fight the pandemic

Fundación for Islamic Culture and Religious Tolerance (FICRT) - Poster of the event "The contribution of religions to the challenges of the COVID-19

These are times of change. The coronavirus pandemic has led us into an identity crisis in which religion plays a key role. On other occasions humanity has experienced social crises and pandemics, which is why today's religions have to adapt their discourse to the times in which we live, but without failing to remember pedagogically that human beings have been exposed to this type of event throughout their history.

Indalecio Lozano, Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Granada, moderated the FICRT debate, giving way to the various guest speakers: José Antonio Pérez Tapia, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Arts at the University of Granada, Juma al- Kaabi, Director of FICRT, José Antonio González Alcantud, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Granada, Antonio de Diego González, Professor of Philosophy at the University Pablo de Olavide, and Esteban Velázquez Guerra S.J, Jesuit and promoter of the Interreligious Foundation "Centro Persona y Justicia".

Indalecio Lozano

Dean Pérez Tapia began his presentation by explaining that "the COVID-19 has reached our daily lives in a thousand ways, both in confinement and in illness, and we all have the responsibility to take care of ourselves".

The idea of tackling the pandemic through religions is something innovative that is being worked on in depth. "Not every country will have a recovery plan like Europe. Our solidarity must be extended to other countries as well. The pandemic has disrupted many things and now it is time to rebuild", explained Pérez Tapia.

The dean of the Granada faculty, has stressed that, from the point of view of religion and its moral implications, it is important to understand death and the process of how to die. "It is unfortunate that it is understood that people simply die, not only do they die, but we die. We have forgotten our mortal condition and it is important to make an exercise of solidarity to understand our own and others' bodies".

Juma alkaabi

For his part, Al-Kaabi has stressed the importance of brotherhood and support between religions. He has also appealed to tolerance as a main value for carrying out a combat process in the face of the current pandemic crisis. "Security and stability and health is a legitimate demand of all religions of the book in order to continue to perform divine rites and to achieve the ultimate goal of all religions".  

Guilt and the coronavirus

Dr González Alcantud wanted to focus on the discomfort that these irreparable and uncontrollable events produce in us: "Pandemia and confinement make us feel a guilt that was shifting in societies".

In monotheistic religions, guilt is often redirected to the individual sphere. "And this feeling of guilt manifests itself in the form of punishment. The feeling of guilt produces the disenchantment of this wonderful world", Gonzáles Alcantud has stressed, wanting to get to the point that many think "it has been because of our sins".

But this year, in contrast to other pandemics or black plagues, guilt is being redirected towards the States and their lack of organization or foresight, "we have metaphorized the feeling of guilt and we have to remember the pillars that keep us standing as a society: piety and hope".

In times of crisis many bring up the debate again from God's silence. "Why is it that in the face of human suffering this theme appears," he concluded, leaving those present to ponder after his speech.

Antonio González Alcantud
Islam and the COVID -19

In support of and in response to the issue raised by González Alcantud, Dr González explained that religions have always acted in times of pandemics as a means of support, justification, understanding or reflection. "This has led us to cling to the symbolic in an attempt to understand the reason for our reality.

Dr González has made a harsh criticism of techno-science and its materialism, which "tends towards arrogance and the dehumanisation of the problem. We have a kind of narcissistic control that makes us forget the vulnerability of human beings," he explained.

"Our world is more complex than what materialism offers. Chance can make techno-science fail and this frustrates us. We live in a happy-flowerism that is unsustainable". Religion has been replaced by dogma and orthodoxy, and therefore by power and ideology. "There are many people who no longer stop to think that there is a way beyond and that it is not at all easy," Gonzalez said, trying to explain the crisis of faith in the 21st century.

For this reason, he wanted to draw out very interesting examples of how to get religion across to people today. "We have seen that many people have set out to help others through the networks, but it is not enough in the religious sphere," he explained.

Antonio de diego

According to Dr González, there is a lack of pastoral education among religious leaders. "Perhaps it is not the imam who has to do the nearest religious service, but we have to think that there is a wide spectrum of people trained for this". To conclude this argument she explained that "there are many influencers in social networks who are better at being theologians than previous leaders, and of these influencers, 90% are women," she stressed.

He also wanted to highlight the issue of populism. "Populism encourages fear and this is linked to war, hunger and death. We have to encourage empathy, and this is something that is very much encouraged in the Islamic world.

González expressed his concern, explaining that the religious rhetoric used today is devoid of symbols and the discourse it uses is more ideological than anything else. "And the more perfect an ideology is, the less tolerant it is. In practice, the encounter with the divine should not become an ideology," he said.

Esteban Guerra
Pandemic, global governance, universal brotherhood and religions

Velázquez Guerra has been very critical of the current situation, announcing that human suffering is on the surface and that we still have a lot to suffer due to climate change.

"This situation is calling for a constituent process at a global level, we have to create an international instrument that serves us all," he announced.

The idea put forward by Velázquez Guerra is that if an international tribunal for crimes against humanity was created at the time, we could create an International Criminal Court for Migration Rights, for example.  "On a religious and inter-religious level, religions need to enter into a dynamic to discuss what we bring to the process of global governance and life".

Finally, on the day of violence against women, Velázquez Guerra wanted to remind us that "religions are very sexist and have nothing to teach the world. On the contrary, we have a lot to learn and change".