Religious Literacy Academy
From Where We Stand - Religious Literacy means Humility First
We are different, brought up in countries far away from each other, spiritually based in our own traditions and belief systems, female and male, young and old, sick or healthy, infected or not. And still we are all interlinked because of our faith in the oneness, the dignity before the Divine which equalizes us, make us finally one human family. If people gather to breathe and stay calm for such moments of reflection and prayer, it appears as if all are able to feel the power of faith.
The Covid-19 pandemic is questioning everything. It brings out the bad and the good in humankind. This is understandable since we feel this oneness before the Divine and see the vulnerability of us as human beings, being dependent on one another more than we might have thought especially in Western individualized societies. But let’s face it. We look at very different degrees of vulnerability. Access to health care and tests, clean water and medical treatment, hospitals and food, labour and wealth, online connectivity and gardens, education and income are differing a great deal.
In such times as these, faith communities and their respective leaders provide care and psycho-social counselling, supply food and health care, visit the elderly and sick, offer spiritual orientation and guidance. And again, let’s face it. This perspective rather mirrors the world view from the global North, the secular and wealthy perspective, where religious communities are regarded as one instrument of the social welfare state. For 85% of world’s population, the role of religious communities and leaders is part of their daily life, all what was said is reality and not divided in political and public life on the one hand, and in privacy and religious practise on the other hand.
This means that in such times as these, faith leaders and faith-based institutions carry a special responsibility for their communities and the societies to which they belong. This is relevant and happening in all regions of the world. Overcoming stigmatisation, caring for the most vulnerable and, at the same time, advocating for direct access to services and humanitarian assistance that governments and multilateral organisations make available. What a challenge and responsibility for the secular institutions and political systems as well as for faith leaders and religious institutes. But actually, it is not so difficult. If we all engage with each other in humility and respect. If we are listening carefully to each other and respect differences and beliefs and secular systems and language, identify together bad and good practise, do not shy away because of the differences, but really encourage each other despite the differences – we will make the changes possible that planet and people need to continue life on earth hopefully in a much healthier way than before the COVID-19 crisis. As Prof Karam says in the head article, not in instrumentalising faith for the purpose of politics but in providing the grassroots faith-inspired organisations and institutions with the resources necessary to make the life easier for the most vulnerable.
Ulrich Nitschke is heading PIRON’s Faith & Development team since beginning of March 2020 as senior advisor. Ulrich worked for 20 years in parastatal development cooperation on behalf of GIZ and the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development as well as for Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As the initiator of the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development, Ulrich Nitschke was responsible for its establishment and further development in the role of head of secretariat. As trained theologian and political scientist with lots of experience in several countries around the world he specialised in program management on governance and civil society development projects. For more information http://www.piron.global/en/topics/faithindevelopment/