Government roundtable hears call to work with faith leaders on tackling coronavirus

Published 13 June 2020  |  
(Photo: Christian Aid/A D'Unienville)
Faith groups have played a key role in Christian Aid's Ebola response in Sierra Leone, including by distributing food to quarantined homes in the capital Freetown.

Human rights minister Lord Ahmad has held a virtual roundtable with faith leaders to discuss the global impact of coronavirus on religious communities.

The chief executives of faith-based development agencies CAFOD, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief UK, Tearfund and World Vision all took part in the roundtable, during which they spoke of the vital role religious communities had to play in tackling the pandemic.

While the UK Government has pledged £766 million to the global coronavirus response in recent months, the faith leaders urged the Government not to neglect faith groups in its wider response to the pandemic.

"We know from our long experience working with some of the world's poorest communities that trusted faith leaders will be crucial for raising awareness and challenging misinformation among those most vulnerable during this pandemic," they said in a joint statement.

"Maximising the reach and effectiveness of our faith-based aid networks around the world will be vital to effectively fight the spread of coronavirus.

"Faith leaders are rooted in their communities and understand their challenges and needs. We hope that the government will understand this and work more closely and meaningfully with faith institutions who are part of the frontline in tackling this pandemic.

"As faith organisations we are urging the international community to lead a new vision after this crisis – where inequalities are reduced, where basic services and rights are guaranteed for every human being and the planet is respected."

The roundtable heard that around the world, belief-based organisations are playing a crucial role in reducing poverty, providing humanitarian aid and providing accurate information about coronavirus to their local communities.

Lord Ahmad said the UK Government was committed to working with faith groups to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic, both in the UK and internationally.

Talking at the roundtable, he said: "As the coronavirus pandemic continues to have an unprecedented impact on communities around the world, we know – more than ever – that we will only succeed in fighting it if we do so together.

"That is why I am hugely grateful to our faith leaders and faith-based charities who are doing so much to tackle the virus' devastating spread, by providing support and advice for the most vulnerable."

Rehman Chishti, the Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, said: "In some countries around the world, minority faith and belief communities are more vulnerable to the secondary effects of coronavirus than those of the majority religion.

"As the Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, I am fully committed to promoting respect and understanding between different religious groups, and calling out instances where the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief is being abused.

"I stand with faith leaders and faith-based organisations as we work together to help communities in need. Those suffering deserve nothing less than our support."

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