Interfaith Alliance

The Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities Hosted A Roundtable Event - Covid-19: Faith as a Moral Framework for our Communities

August 2020

The Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities (IAFSC), an NGO established to empower faith leaders to work for the safety and security of communities, has held a successful online interfaith roundtable event with representation from 50 participants representing 7 faiths from 18 countries.

Speaking about the event, Dr. Vinu Aram (Director of Shanti Ashram and Co-Moderator of Religions for Peace) said, “I want to thank the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities for this meeting today. The work of the Interfaith Alliance is so important: in the disruption of the ways we worked together as communities, we have found that children have become more vulnerable... While every nation is trying to find its own solution, those of us who work with children have to be greater advocates for their cause.”

Chief Executive of the IAFSC, Dana Humaid, said “Faith has rarely been more important or powerful than in the current crisis. The IAFSC hosted this event in order to allow discussion and facilitate knowledge-sharing from different religions and communities on a global scale. Faith leaders have the power to assist their communities, to be advocates for those in need, to make a difference and offer comfort and also to try and reduce the suffering of people under their watch.”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented in modern times, and has had a significant impact on the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of our communities.

Millions have lost their jobs and are facing unbearable struggles such as hunger and homelessness. This pandemic has had unforeseen consequences as well, such as a surge in the cases of child sexual abuse as well as an increase in hate crimes based on race and religion. The IAFSC convened the online event to provide a forum where faith leaders can share their experiences, successes and failures encountered during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The roundtable brought together 50 attendees including: grassroot faith leaders from 7 religions across the world, representatives from selected government agencies, international organizations and NGOs, to discuss the role of values and morality in our communities, and how we as a society can move forward with global recovery after Covid-19, and most importantly, how we can support our communities as well as the people in them.

Key Outcomes

The roundtable discussions aimed to address three of the most significant problems being faced by our communities today. Key findings for each session are as follows:

Supporting those most impacted by the coronavirus in rebuilding their lives

●        We are all impacted by this pandemic, we are not all affected the same way. Communities are affected differently, some are affected more severely.

●        The role of faith and faith leaders is to build, promote and invigorate a spirit of resilience.

●        When faith leaders aren’t able to contact their community and provide them with help or assistance in a difficult time, it is a challenge for everyone in the community.

●        Faith leaders have been taking on the bulk of the work in some communities.

●        We need to be careful of our blind spots, we cannot create a situation in which we overlook other communities that now need our help, such as those that may not be considered traditionally vulnerable sectors of society.

Protecting the digital dignity of children and supporting the victims and their families

●        Faith leaders can be champions in leading the prevention of sexual exploitation.

●        Prior to the pandemic, parents and guardians had transferred their parental responsibility onto teachers but now it has been transferred back to parents.

●        It is important to base our responses on data and evidence and go from there.

●        No one is an expert in the prevention of exploitation. Community is key.

●        We need to increase budgets for social and health services.

●        Family and family stability are also vital.

●         Education, mobilization, support and universal healthcare are all necessary in improving our communities.

Combatting the spread of hate crimes and online hate speech

●        There is a common experience that cannot be avoided in communities: nobody is safe from hate crime. This is likely in part because when a society breaks down there is a lack of cohesion and the tendency to engage in finger pointing begins.

●        Governments need to show strength in their response to Covid-19. Dialogue between policy makers and faith leaders is much needed.

●        Tech companies and technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), have a role to play in being able to seed out this hateful content. Technology leaders need to be incentivized to solve problems and not create avenues for the problems of the future.

●        Multifaith, virtues-led education at a very junior level is a potential solution. Teaching young people the virtues of kindness and how to be a good actor on social media would be good practice.

The faiths represented at the roundtable event were Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and Judaism.

Among others, organisations represented included: Arigatou International, ECPAT International, New York Board of Rabbis, Conference of European Rabbis, Bahá'í International Community, Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, Shanti Ashram, World Economic Forum, UNICEF, Conference of European Churches, Markaz Knowledge City (India), Online Anti-Semitism Task Force.

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