Coronaspection project banner graphic from Elijah Interfaith Institute

Editor’s Note: To see a 3-minute preview of religious voices in the Coronaspection project, click on the video screen at the end of Peggy’s column, below. For a listing of all of Elijah Interfaith Institute’s dozens of YouTube videos, visit the Institute’s YouTube channel. You can find many other resources at the Institute’s own website.

Journalists who cover religion will find a wealth of story ideas and powerful quotes in a new project launched by the Elijah Interfaith Institute in Jerusalem called Coronaspection.

Some 40 religious leaders from seven religions spanning fifteen countries—including Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, leading imams, chief rabbis, swamis, cardinals, and teachers—offer their perspectives on the pandemic that has swept the world and touched believers of every kind.

One of the questions that is raised in the project is how to understand the pandemic. Some see it as a test from God, says the institute’s Director Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein in a forthcoming interview with Zenit—while other faith leaders do not believe deity has anything to do with it.

One of the great temptations is to consider COVID-19 a punishment for some transgression, Goshen-Gottstein tells the interviewer. Almost all project participants avoid this view. To claim it is a punishment raises serious challenges in terms of identifying the sin and proportionality of the punishment.

In his remarks, Pope Francis cautioned against suggesting God was using the virus to judge humanity. It is not the time of [God’s] judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.

These in-depth video interviews explore major religious issues of the day. The project was conceived as providing a resource for people of all faiths to grapple with the spiritual challenges brought about by COVID-19, including:

  • How to handle loss, solitude, fear and anxiety?
  • How to deepen solidarity and appreciation of our interconnectedness?
  • What is the vision of religious leaders for tomorrow?

Surely the world needs more than masks at this moment. It needs meaning. It needs direction. It needs hope. It needs tools to overcome not only the physical challenges presented by the Corona virus but also the spiritual challenges, says Goshen-Gottstein in a news release describing the effort. If the crisis is global, the teaching too must be global. While every teacher addresses his or her community, no one had sought to bring together voices across religious diversity in order to offer teaching, meaning and hope.

Long-form versions of the interviews (many are about 40 minutes) as well as excerpts are available on the Elijah Institute’s website and via its YouTube channel. The rabbi has also pulled together insights and conclusions from the project into a book, Coronaspection: World Religious Leaders Reflect on COVID-19, slated to be published on Aug. 1.

Goshen-Gottstein founded the Elijah Interfaith Institute in 1997 as a nonprofit, international organization with the slogan is Sharing Wisdom, Fostering Peace.

As to the current project, the rabbi says the conclusion is clear: This is a time for unity and solidarity, where all religions must unite.