The Role of Religion in Facing Covid-19
Social distancing in this situation would be wiser than vice versa. Behind that, there are moral and religious values that can be realized.In self-isolation, we are reminded of the importance of togetherness as humans.
Lee Man-hee, the leader of the Jesus Shincheonji Church in South Korea, bowed and knelt before a press conference. The leader of one of the country’s Christian sects apologized in front reporters and the public for the role of their followers in the spread of COVID-19 in South Korea.
Critics accused his church of blocking efforts to fight the virus outbreak. Previously, Lee said that the coronavirus was an "evil act" that inhibited the growth of his church (BussFeedNews, 2/3/2020).
Despite being rather late, Indonesia is now also aggressively fighting the outbreak of this virus. The approach being taken is community-based. That means that all parties must be actively involved in preventing the transmission, including religious leaders and religious communities.
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Religious people are expected to play an active role. Our role is very large and is expected to be strategic considering that Indonesian people in general are still religious. As proof, it is easier for people to follow the advice not to go to work or school than not to worship together at places of worship.
Theological view of disaster
The role of religious communities and their leaders in overcoming the COVID-19 outbreak can be seen in their theological views. Based on the sermons, statements and suggestions of religious leaders who are interconnected on social media, they can be classified into three main clusters of their theological views, ranging from the most conservative to the most progressive.
First, the conservative cluster. There are religious leaders who see the disaster as fate. This group argues that all the disasters that have befallen humans, including the COVID-19 outbreak, have already been destined by God. Humans cannot do anything except pray and repent to ask forgiveness from God.
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Disasters are understood as God\'s curse on people because of their evil and sins. So, the attitude taken in the face of this disaster is submission, prayer and invitation to repent over all the sins.
Second, the moderate cluster, namely the theological sect that believes that disasters can be caused by humans, but also at the same time, is the inevitability of natural law. Extraordinary events whose causes have not or cannot be explained, such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, are believed to be an inevitability of natural law to achieve balance.
This kind of extraordinary event is also believed to be God\'s intervention in the arrangement of the balance of the universe. What can be done by humans is to minimize the negative impact of these extraordinary events on human life. For extraordinary events caused by other factors that can be explained by causal logic, such as floods, climate change, social conflicts and the like, in addition to minimizing negative impacts on human life, it also reduces or eliminates the causes of disasters.
Third, the progressive cluster, namely a sect that believes that all the extraordinary events that can cause disasters originate solely from humans and the natural necessity to achieve the balance of nature.
There is no divine intervention in each of these extraordinary events. For things that have not been able to be explained logically, their explanations will continue to be sought and maybe someday they will be found.
God\'s intervention is in the form of giving freedom and human reason to be creative in finding solutions to disasters that befall humans. The biggest temptation for religious people is lazy thinking, which is fostered by religious belief/faith that all disasters come from God due to human sins so that humans can only receive by faith, prayer and repentance.
Efforts to minimize the impact of disasters and look for causes of disasters are not very important. Fatalistic faith and beliefs like this still seem to be shared by some religious communities in Indonesia, whatever their religion and beliefs. This will be worsened by the support of religious leaders and figures who share the same views.
Stance to face Covid-19
In order to face the COVID-19 outbreak, presumably the religious communities and their leaders are more open theologically and spiritually so that they can contribute to preventing it and not on the contrary by worsening the situation. Consequently, religious communities need to reinterpret theological and spiritual understanding in dealing with the existing situation.
In an emergency situation like now, many religions have advocated using online worship services.
In this case, the interpretation of the communitarian aspect of faith is challenged to find new ways to express it. Almost all religions/beliefs teach that worship together is one of the obligations. In normal situations, online worship is generally not acceptable by the religious people.
However, thankfully, in an emergency situation like now, many religions have advocated using online worship services, although there are still many who continue to worship together in places of worship. In the current context it may be good to interpret religious teachings not to be legalistic. Laws are for humans and not humans for law.
Social distancing or "self-isolation" in this situation would be wiser than vice versa. Behind that, there are moral and religious values that can be realized. By "isolating oneself", people can reduce the negative impact on others because of the potential to become infected and can be a carrier for others. This action, which is seemingly individualistic, can have a better social impact.
Certainly there are still opportunities for religious leaders to continue to pay attention and serve their affected people. This is the same as medical officers who are still called on to care for patients physically, so religious leaders also have the responsibility to serve spiritually those exposed to this virus. Of course, like medical staff, they also need to pay attention to safety aspects by respecting existing protection protocols, so as not to be exposed to viruses that will consequently be carriers for others and stop their service.
This global disaster teaches us how important global solidarity becomes important.
The religious leaders and religious institutions also need to think about those who are forced to isolate themselves because their lives depend on their mobility. Not everyone has the capacity to isolate themselves for a long time. Their lives depend on their mobility. Although this is the duty of the state, religious leaders and religious institutions need to take part in thinking about the fate of those who do not have this access. The solidarity movement needs to be activated for those who are marginalized.
This global disaster teaches us how important global solidarity becomes important. This disaster strikes all people regardless of their status. People or groups who have only been concerned with the welfare and life of themselves and their groups are not spared from the target. Meanwhile, those who have been marginalized are more vulnerable. While continuing to look for ways to find solutions to the onslaught of this virus, we are made aware that our lives depend on others.
In self-isolation, we are reminded of the importance of togetherness as humans.
Adrianus Suyadi, Catholic clergy and social-humanitarian activist.