, 28 March, 2020 / 6:55 AM
Religious leaders in Mauritius have come together to demonstrate their unity of purpose in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in their country and invited citizens in the Island nation to stand together in the battle.
“The enemy is COVID-19 and the war to be fought is against it. The only war, and against COVID-19 alone,” reads in part the statement from the Mauritian Council of Religions dated March 27.
The Council of Religions in Mauritius was officially founded in 2001 following a call from the United Nations for religious leaders in each country to work together to promote peace.
The Council is composed of 11 executive members representing the major religions in Mauritius including Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism.
In their collective statement, the spiritual leaders affirm, “We, religious of different faiths, are well placed to pray but also to help the Nation to stay the course.”
The religious leaders call on Mauritians to unite in order to defeat the common enemy, COVID-19, that has forced countries to adopt stringent measures to keep the population safe.
“With one voice, let us unite our hearts in prayer and implore the Almighty to hear our prayers, hear our cries of despair and come to our aid for us to defeat our enemy,” the religious leaders further state and add, “It is time to show that faith is part of preventive and proactive actions to protect each other.”
The Indian Ocean island nation has at least 88 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and recorded the first death linked to the deadly virus on March 21.
Reacting to news of the confirmed cases of the virus in the country, the Bishop of Port Louis diocese, Maurice Cardinal Piat, in an earlier statement, appealed for calm.
The government has also put in place stringent measures to avoid the spread of the virus, including a curfew order, closing of national borders, and reduction of public gatherings, amongst others.
“This Covid-19 pandemic seems to plunge us into a new and unreal reality, so much so that it impacts on our ways of life, individual, collective and global,” the religious leaders note in their collective statement and add, “All of us Mauritians, as everywhere else in the world, are currently living in an unprecedented situation.”
According to them, COVID-19 pandemic “concerns all of us, human beings, believers or not, practicing or not, from all cultural, religious and philosophical horizons. Women and men of all religions that we are living an experience that upsets us even in the intimacy of our life of faith.”
The leaders from different faiths have also appealed to the consciences of Mauritians to avoid practices that will bring suffering to the people in the midst of this crisis.
“We must awaken consciences against any risk of slippage that would make us the wrong enemy, any trap that would lead us to drifts against our neighbor, our fellow citizens,” the religious leaders have stated.
Addressing the challenge of discrimination and fear currently associated with COVID-19, the spiritual leaders note, “We must guard against any stigmatization and protect people against discriminatory practices resulting from prejudice, misinformation or hysteria due to the virus.”
The Council of Religions also cautioned against “taking the other or others as scapegoats, as those responsible for what we are going through.”
“The temptations are there, to lose one’s temper or to take it out on others, often with the danger of the ethnic factor not far away, inevitably resulting in human rights violations,” the leaders say.
The religious leaders in Mauritius have cautioned the population against "fake news" and other "intoxications" including the spreading of rumors about the number of infected or dead people.
“No matter where we are or to which religion we belong, the key words must be more than ever "love", "mercy", "compassion", "dignity for all life", but also "respect". Respect for human rights,” the leaders instruct.
While acknowledging the importance of science in seeking solutions to the pandemic, the religious leaders have affirmed, “Science and spirituality go hand in hand, so prayer is a force to be reckoned with. Scientific results are answers to our prayers.”
“Strengthened by our faiths and our respective prayers, we can contribute to preventive actions to protect each other in order to save our paradise island of Covid-19,” the message reads further.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa