Monday, March 23, 2020

In a pandemic, religion can be a balm and a risk.

Workers disinfecting a mosque ahead of Friday prayers in Istanbul this month.Credit...Chris Mcgrath/Getty Images

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Down on earth, the coronavirus outbreak was felling lives, livelihoods and normalcy. A nation-spanning blessing seemed called for. So up went a priest in a small airplane, rumbling overhead at an epidemiologically safe distance from the troubles below, wielding a sacred golden vessel from a cockpit-turned-pulpit.

Before his flight over Lebanon, a soldier at an airport checkpoint asked the Rev. Majdi Allawi if he had a mask and hand sanitizer.

“Jesus is my protection,” said Father Allawi, who belongs to the Maronite Catholic Church. “He is my sanitizer.”

Religion is the solace of first resort for billions of people grappling with a pandemic for which scientists, presidents and the secular world seem, so far, to have few answers. With both sanitizer and leadership in short supply, dread over the coronavirus has driven the globe’s faithful even closer to religion and ritual.  Read more >>