‘Pandemic has no regard for religious or spiritual distinctions. We are all vulnerable’ – UN Chief

Remarks by António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations on the role of religious leaders in addressing the multiples challenges of COVID-19.

At a high-level video conference on the role of religious leaders in addressing the challenges of COVID-19, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “As the virus wreaks havoc and disruption on a scale not seen in generations, we see a dawning awareness that the differences that so often divide us pale in significance.”

In his remarks today (12 May), Guterres said the pandemic has “no regard for religious or spiritual distinctions. It does not care about national borders. We are all vulnerable — and that shared vulnerability reveals our common humanity.”

The Secretary-General added that the virus lays bare our responsibility to promote solidarity as the foundations of our response – a solidarity based on the human rights and human dignity of all.

The Secretary-General emphasized four areas where religious leaders play a pivotal role in delivering solutions to not only address the pandemic but also recover better. These include supporting his appeal for a global ceasefire and his appeal for peace in the home – regarding the alarming increase in violence against women and girls as this pandemic and the lockdowns spreads.

Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said this could not be the time for selfishness and division, adding that people have become more united and understood that the lives of different communities are dependent on each other as part of the human family.

SOUNDBITE (English) Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, Bishop of the Catholic Church,President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue:
“We are dependent upon each other. Our sense of feeling united is not from the strength of economic power or that of arms, rather because we have discovered ourselves as weak and fragile, and therefore in need of each other.”

The Cardinal said emerging from the pandemic required efforts to defeat injustice and inequality. He said the world must cease this opportunity to create a new and better global society. He noted that the awareness of human fraternity would help us to overcome the pandemic, adding that religious leaders must promote unity solidary and brotherhood. Ayuso Guixot invited all people to participate in the May 14 day of prayer fasting and good deeds announced by higher committee for human fraternity.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier, Senior Rabbi of New York City’s Park East Synagogue, said faith, prayer, and action could build a brighter future, adding that humanity’s shared history shows that we always emerge.

He said people of faith must be in the forefront of countering hatemongers who have invaded social media to disseminate xenophobia, anti-Semitism, bias against minorities and conspiracy theories exploiting this tragic time for hatred and division.

SOUNDBITE (English) Rabbi Arthur Schneier, Senior Rabbi of New York City’s Park East Synagogue, Founder and President of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, Member of High Level Group and Ambassador to the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations:
“As religious leaders, we cannot solve the medical challenges and extraordinary economic upheaval caused by this pandemic. We can and must redouble our efforts to unite a divided family, and to remind our people – now more than ever –love your neighbor as yourself and respect for the other.”

The Rabbi said religious leaders must work to heal the divisions and strengthen those forces committed to promoting mutual acceptance and peaceful co-existence.

Professor Ahmed Abbadi, Secretary General of the Rabita Mohammadia of Oulémas of the Kingdom of Morocco, said religious leaders and institutions are a great responsibility in promoting consciousness, solidarity, serenity, wisdom, unity, guidance, fraternity, among other good deeds and moralities. He said this was the “source of credibility of the religious leaders and institutions, but we need to recall that a great and articular mandatory condition appeared in this matrix caused by COVID-19, which is the need for digitalization.”

Abbadi said religious leaders and institutions must build the capacity to face the digitalization needs, which should also be part of the training for religious leaders.

Full Remarks [as delivered]: https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2020-05-12/secretary-generals-remarks-high-level-video-conference-entitled-the-role-of-religious-leaders-addressing-the-multiple-challenges-of-covid-19-delivered

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António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres GCC GCL is a Portuguese politician and diplomat serving as the ninth secretary-general of the United Nations. A member of the Portuguese Socialist Party, he served as prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002.

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