In light of the corona outbreak, several religious faiths have had to adjust and modify daily millennia-old rituals.
Christians have chosen not to dip consecrated bread into the single, shared chalice whereas, Sunday masses have also been suspended. Loving thy neighbour now also means staying away from them.
Similarly for Muslims where communal prayers are an essential part of daily life performed five times per day, have also had to modify practices. In countries like Turkey mosques and other places of worship have been closed, which includes Friday prayers for Muslims until further notice.
That, however, hasn’t stopped people from continuing to worship or turning to their faith.
For many people, religion is not only a way of coping with hard times but it is also an overarching framework for living one’s life.
With much of Turkey under a self-imposed quarantine, mosques have begun a new tradition each night by making short sermons or reciting the Quran, the Muslim holy book, melodically over the tannoy system.
Normally the loudspeakers call the faithful to the prayer, now they also convey a different message each night.
The higher aim, ultimately, is to keep people’s spirits high and to offer a sense of routine for people that may have spent the best part of the day at home.
In times of fear, faith can be a soothing balm.
The Catholic Church has recommended that its followers can turn directly to God and seek forgiveness instead of relying on priests as intermediaries. In times of crises, even the Catholic Church has become a little Protestant.
Christian communities in the US are attempting to hold their congregations together using altogether more modern means.
“A lot of us are ramping up ways to keep and hold the community in the midst of this, either by Facetime, Googling, Zoom calls, Facebook Live, all those forms of media that can help keep and hold a community together,” said one priest in the US.
As communities adapt and move away, albeit temporarily, from physically close congregational prayer there may well be an increased understanding of the importance of congregational prayers.
The saying “man's extremity is God's opportunity” has never had so much currency.
Muslims scholars may well remind the faithful that such situations are an opportunity for self-reflection and seek closeness to Allah, a time to spiritually and psychologically reset.
In Islam, the focus is always in re-orienting the individual to adapt to different situations and to make people more aware of the unseen. The congregational prayer is important but Muslims scholars will remind their followers that in this current moment the focus ought to be in how we relate to Allah in private.
Equally, Christian priests in Italy are also attempting to hold live-streamed masses for their followers, sometimes to humourous effect.
But more tragically in Italy, the coronavirus has also taken a toll amongst the ranks of the priests. In Italy, more than 50 have died due to the virus and one priest, Don Giuseppe Berardelli even gave another the use of his respirator, later dying.
As an increasing number of people become infected and die as a result of the coronavirus, faith is playing an important role, as it has done for centuries in ensuring that even in dark times, people should maintain hope.