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Religious leaders can play pivotal role to combat Covid-19 pandemic, says UN chief

New York: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday said the religious leaders around the world can play an important role to deliver solutions in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic and help people recover from effects of the illness.

“To defeat Covid-19 and build a more sustainable and equitable world, we need communities to come together. Religious leaders can play a pivotal role to deliver solutions to not only address the pandemic but to recover better,” Guterres posted on his Twitter.

The Secretary-General on May 12 had made similar remarks at a high-level video conference entitled, “The Role of Religious Leaders in addressing the multiple challenges of Covid-19.”

“It is heartening to see so many religious leaders joining forces today in a spirit of solidarity. Our world faces a crisis like no other. The Covid-19 pandemic is not just a global health emergency. It is a human crisis that is upending lives, destroying livelihoods and deepening mistrust around the world,” he said.

He also said that the world knows from previous public health crises that the actions of faith leaders influence people’s values, attitudes, behaviours, and actions.

At the conference, he thanked religious leaders for supporting my appeal for a global ceasefire in view of Covid-19. However, he also noted that certain place around the world continues to see conflicts unabated.

“Yet we continue to see conflicts rage in many places — along with a rise in ethnonationalism, stigma and hate speech targeting vulnerable communities and exacerbating suffering. Meanwhile, extremists and radical groups are seeking to exploit eroding trust in leadership and feed on people’s vulnerability to serve their own ends,” he said.

He also asked the religious leaders to reject and condemn all forms of intolerance that surged amid coronavirus.

“…reject xenophobia, racism and all forms of intolerance. Second, I also made an appeal for peace at home. Across the globe, we are seeing an alarming increase in violence against women and girls as this pandemic spreads. This is in violation of principles common to every faith, and I appeal to religious leaders to categorically condemn such acts,” he added.

He also stressed the need to fight the spread of misinformation amid the pandemic.

“…as we fight the spread of disinformation and misinformation, I ask religious leaders to leverage your networks and communication capacities to support governments in promoting WHO-recommended public health measures.”

Lastly, he urged faith leaders to support the continuity of education, working with education providers to find solutions to combat the effect of the contagion.