Opinion: Interfaith community groups counter COVID-19
Detroit’s multi-faith community is uniquely prepared in countering the scourge of the coronavirus.
So, how are some of them responding to this pandemic?
I looked for a few examples. I wanted to ask the leaders what each's aith community is doing in these challenging times. I found a common goal that motivates those connected to the houses of worship in serving others in need, irrespective of the recipient’s beliefs. No matter who their congregations worship to, I noticed unanimity — they bring their respective community resources to meet this challenge.
COVID-19 targets us as a single vulnerable people. Creed, color or status means nothing to it. Whether be Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and none, we’re confronting one enemy.
In polling the interfaith community leaders I had worked with, as interfaith partners in service, I learned: believers, facing an adversary like this one, lean upon the universal power of love, mercy, service and care for their neighbors — giving real meaning to One Nation under God, and In God we Trust.
I especially wanted to hear from the diverse minority faith groups.
►Rabbi Asher Lopatin, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC, told me the stories of his community work that matters in these difficult time — he highlighted one of their several initiatives: Food to the Front Lines Meals on Wheels program in providing daily meal deliveries to those in need.
►Mahmoud Al-Hadidi, chair of the Michigan Muslim Community Council, briefed me: Their members too are helping with food distribution. He pointed out the Muslim Council’s collaborative efforts with Muslim Jewish Advocacy Council of Michigan to provide hundreds of kosher and halal meals to front line healthcare providers of all backgrounds, in appreciation of their heroic sacrifices.
►Sam Yono, a Chaldean community leader and businessman, spoke of the contributions of his Catholic community: “Our grocery stores and gas stations stay open, well stocked to provide essentials — many offering free food and other necessities to the poor.” He added, “Our volunteers collect supplies and protective gear for medical professionals."
►Raman Singh, president of the Interfaith Leadership Council, and a trustee of Mata Tripta Ji Gurdwara Sahib in Plymouth, provided me with pictures of Sikh volunteers unloading bags of food for distribution to the needy.
Churches, synagogue, mosques and temples may shut their doors to keep this invader out, but it can’t lock God out, who inspires goodness into the hearts of the believers — giving them the strength and a will to serve even under attack. This foe may subdue a human body, but their human spirit of giving and sacrifice remains undefeated — a reason why hospitals offer spiritual spaces and hospital chaplains of all faiths comfort patients in trying times.
From Vatican to Mecca, the coronavirus is aiming to separate congregants from their houses of worship — church bells temporarily stopped welcoming, a prominent rabbi urging worshipers not to kiss the western wall, mosques replacing the call to prayer with al-salatu fi buyutikum or “pray in your homes” instead of the usual hayya alas-salah or “come to prayer.”
Undaunted faithful, however, continue by livestreaming services; never abandoning the strong and healing hand of God. Zoom video technology brings faith groups face to face to plan and promote service to humanity. As one who welcomes interfaith engagement, dialogue and unity, I’m proud to know interfaith partners of Metro Detroit are stepping up to the challenge.
As the governments, scientists and the front-line medical professionals battle the coronavirus, the faith communities offer spiritual power to counter this invisible force.
Victor Begg is an emeritus senior adviser of Michigan Muslim community Council, and the author of the 2019 memoir, "Our Muslim Neighbors — Achieving the American Dream; An Immigrant’s Memoir." You can reach him at VictorBegg.com.