Day of Prayer in the midst of COVID-19 outbreak

Today, May 14, 2020, the High Committee of Human Fraternity has convened the World Day of Prayer, Fasting and Charity: believers of different religions will unite throughout the day to pray together for the worrying world crisis generated by the pandemic of COVID-19 and to pray for all those who are working in the search for solutions to this situation.

The Foundation for Islamic Culture and Religious Tolerance would like to join the thousands of voices and associations that have supported this proposal. Therefore, we share with all of you a series of reflections on the importance of interfaith initiatives such as the one we are experiencing today, which point to a future path of tolerance and cooperation among all peoples to find together the resolution of the challenges of our world. The phrases come from interventions made by researchers at the Conferences and at the National Congress that the Foundation for Islamic Culture and Religious Tolerance organized during 2019, as well as from professors who wanted to send us their reflections for this day and from the important document on Human Fraternity, signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, in February 2019.

Here are some related reflections:

– The history of religions shows that there are multiple and very varied religious universes, each with its own cultural specificity, but not closed and isolated from each other, but in constant exchange and reformulation of their respective cultural heritages. (Dr. Juan José Tamayo, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, at the National Congress on Tolerance).

– The encyclicals “Nostra Aetate” of the Second Vatican Council (1965) and the encyclical “Redemptoris Missio” of John Paul II called for sincere and open dialogue with other religions, especially with Islam. In the same spirit, the document of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (1984) indicated four aspects to be taken into account in interreligious dialogue: life, works, theological exchange and religious experience. The document underlines that being religious today means being interreligious and, therefore, stresses the need for mutual knowledge among religions for the elimination of any type of discrimination and for cooperation. One of the most outstanding results of this dynamic interfaith encounter was the Abu Dhabi Declaration between His Holiness Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayyeb. (Fr. José Ramón Busto Sáez, S.J., Director of the Maldonado Center, at the National Congress on Tolerance).

– In no case can there be concordance without difference. Difference is the basis for communities to remain united, and it is this difference that the individual must learn to appreciate and value based on respect for others” (Dr. Amador Vega Esquerra, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, at the National Congress on Tolerance).

– We should ask ourselves if there is any religion that is violent per se. This is a bias that is sometimes dumped on Islam. Violence is not in the essence of Islam, but has been used by some leaders to achieve their political interests through an interpretation of religion from the point of view of power rather than from the point of view of religion itself. (Dr. Josep Puig Montada, Professor Emeritus of the Complutense University of Madrid, at the Conference on the Culture of Tolerance)

– There are no longer unique and exclusive paths to access the encounter with the sacred, but a diversity of paths, which, recognizing each other, will become aware of being different itineraries to reach the same source or to flow into the same sea. (Severino Lázaro, director of the San Juan del Bosco Foundation, at the Congress on tolerance).

Professor Francisco Javier Fernández Vallina, Director of the Department of Linguistics, Arabic, Hebrew and East Asian Studies (UCM) and Professor of the Institute of Religious Sciences (UCM), has sent us the following phrases for the World Day of Prayer:

– In the face of the pain of so many and the uncertainty of all, the humble prayer of religions before a common Father makes visible to us the hope of the necessary human fraternity. (Dr. Francisco Javier Fernández Vallina, Director of the Department of Linguistics, Arabic, Hebrew and East Asian Studies, Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

– May your humble prayer, together, before the common Father gather the silence of pain that cries out for the new construction of human fraternity (Dr. Francisco Javier Fernández Vallina, Director of the Department of Linguistics, Arabic, Hebrew and East Asian Studies at the Complutense University of Madrid).

Phrases from the document on Human Fraternity, for World Peace and Common Coexistence (Abu Dhabi, February 2019), origin of the High Committee of Human Fraternity, the institution that has convoked this World Day of Prayer:

– We turn to intellectuals, philosophers, men of religion, artists, media workers and men of culture in every part of the world to rediscover the values of peace, justice, goodness, beauty, human fraternity and common coexistence, with a view to confirming the importance of these values as an anchor of salvation for all, and to seek to spread them everywhere.

– The protection of the rights of the elderly [tan golpeados por esta crisis], the weak, the disabled and the oppressed is a religious and social necessity that must be guaranteed and protected through rigorous legislation and the application of international conventions in this regard.

– The Community of Sant’Egidio has also joined in the World Day of Prayer https://www.santegidiomadrid.org/?p=9575

– The Cuban Episcopal Conference: https://www.vaticannews.va/es/iglesia/news/2020-05/iglesia-cuba-jornada-mundial-oracion-fraterna-coronavirus.html

– The UN Secretary General joins the Day: https://www.sharjah24.ae/en/arabic/235167/UN-Chief-supports-Higher-Committee-of-Human-Fraternitys-call

– Hindu communities raise their prayers online on the World Day of Prayer: https://www.deccanherald.com/international/abu-dhabi-temple-to-host-online-prayer-meeting-on-may-14-amid-coronavirus-lockdown-835932.html