National Post (National Edition)
FIVE THINGS BELIEVERS PONDER AS 2020 TESTS FAITH
A question Rev. Harrison Ayre found himself asking and being asked this year has been “Where is God?” Here is a look at how various religions are coping with the pandemic.
1 A HISTORIC ISSUE
As a Catholic priest in Nanaimo, B.C., Ayre works to help his congregation make sense of the pandemic in spiritual terms. Religions have historically seen disease as divine judgment or punishment. But judgment is not always a bad
thing, Ayre said. “It's not a judgment unto condemnation. It's a judgment to bring us back
to fall in love with (God).”
2 HOW TO DO THAT?
A coalition of Christian research organizations surveyed 1,269 churches and ministries
and found 80 per cent had moved online. But Indigenous faith practice can't be replicated online, and some members don't have access to technology. The spiritual uplift that comes from attending in person isn't just about participating in rituals, but connecting
3 THEOLOGICAL ISSUES
Observant Jews who cannot use electronics on religious days began livestreaming from synagogues before September's high holy days and left the cameras running. As Catholic sacraments must be in person, Ayre heard confession through car windows. While Muslims can and do pray at home, the loss of community gatherings are painful. “When we get back to normal,” said Imam Mohamed Refaat, president of the Canadian Council of Imams, “we will recognize that those blessings should be
4 ANTI-VAX BELIEVERS
Many mainstream religious leaders support vaccination. Opposition has been based on a number of factors, including what kind of human cells are used in testing and where they are from, and a belief that the divine will protect the faithful.
5 MENTAL HEALTH
When religious groups were told they weren't an essential
service, Refaat says what was missing was an acknowledgment of the importance of communal religious life. The gathering of people for a weekly sermon charges their batteries for the rest of the week, he says. “That charging is big for people of faith. It is so essential for them.”