by Lilian M. Kurz, Editor of the Faith in Development Monitor
"Corona divides societies!", we hear it everywhere and see it in media reports around the world: in health care provided and home office people, in service providers, caregivers and professionals from the so-called vital sectors of the economy and society, in people with access to reserves, to clean water for washing hands and disinfectants, and have-nots who are exposed to the pandemic without protection. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, it has happened exactly as described, with gradual differences between North and South, West and East, with more or less drastic measures of physical distancing, controlled by police. Yes, there are those, the neighbors who denounce their neighbors because they are standing too close together, and also the religious leaders who declare COVID-19 to be a western conspiracy and ignore precautionary measures. But, we can report from Germany and many neighboring countries and also internationally: It works, the majority of people are cautious and understanding and accept the temporary restrictions of civil liberties (which must be observed closely!) for the overall welfare of society, especially of its weaker members. However, it is important to look closely at where politicians are using the pandemic to eliminate or marginalize critical voices.
And - much more important for our Faith&Development Monitor - at the same time, we are experiencing a wave of solidarity, a standing together in a way that has not occurred in post-war history, across national borders. The German public broadcaster WDR reported that twice as many people donated on the donation platform betterplace.org in March 2020 than last year. For Corona projects alone, three million euros in donations had already been collected. On the permanently switched on screens and in the social media, we see the many departures into a digital age in which social proximity is created by listening better than ever before in small talk in the corridor. Yes, there are the actions of civil society organizations, of especially religiously inspired people and their communities, of unrestrained solidarity with the weaker ones! Our special edition will report on these in detail and we are glad that so many people, with different spiritual or secular motivation, have sent us contributions.
Azza Karam, Secretary General of Religions for Peace, clearly states in her lead article that neither in crises nor in "normal times", faith and religious communities must be a political instrument, not one approach among many in the toolbox of development cooperation. In our Religious Literacy Academy, we hear for the first time Ulrich Nitschke, who joined PIRON in March 2020 as Senior Advisor and head of our Religion and Development team. Religious literacy means humility first, is his core statement. Where we usually present a religious organization, this time we are listening to representatives of faith-based organizations, such as Dr. Fidon Mwombeki, General Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches, Andrea Kaufmann, Senior Advisor for External Engagement at World Vision International and the Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani, among others, to learn how they adress COVID-19. As usual, we present a collection of events and resources and information that we hope will be of interest to you, who deal with the nexus between religion and development.
There cannot be enough good deeds these days. Dear readers, we need you as encouraged contributors for the near future - which will definitely look different than the pre-Corona period.
We say: Examples to follow, read for yourself and stay healthy!