Abu Dhabi/ Dubai: United in prayer against the coronavirus pandemic, leaders and representatives of various faiths came together to mark the Day of Global Prayer and Supplication on Thursday.
Organised by the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity (HCFC), the online prayer meeting called on all religious followers to mark the day with prayers, supplications and fasting to ward off the global pandemic in accordance with their own religious rites and customs.
Amongst the most prominent religious leaders who took part in the global initiative were Pope Francis and Dr Ahmad El Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar and chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders. Both leaders were joined by several other religious figures, diplomats and celebrities representing Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism.
“On this day, we are all praying together and asking God to give us a cure and to be able to pass through this pandemic,” said Dr Ahmad El Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar and chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders.
El Tayeb also called on everyone to respect each other’s beliefs and differences. “We want this day to become an annual event to take part in, with people from across the world praying to God together as one, away from racism and hate, and instead based on love, respect, peace and coexistence between all humans,” he added.
El Tayeb also said to mark May 14 as the “day to be the first step in the right direction on a new track abounding in love, respect and cooperation among all fellow humans”
“Let May 14 mark the beginning of a new world where peacemaking overcomes the industry of weapons, showing evidence of our ability to create a common environment where we can all live together as fellow brothers and sisters enjoying mutual love,” he noted.
United as brothers and sisters
The Grand Imam’s prayers were echoed by Pope Francis, who also took part in Prayer for Humanity.
“Today, all of us, brothers and sisters of every religious tradition, we pray. It is a day of prayer, fasting and penance, as called by the High Committee of Human Fraternity,” said Pope Francis during a Mass at Casa Santa Marta in Vatican City.
“Whatever religious tradition we belong to, we pray to God… We are all united as humans, as brothers and sisters praying to God according to our own culture, tradition, and according to what we believe,” Pope Francis added, highlighting the theme of religious unity.
Pope Francis also spoke of what he called the tragic consequences brought on by the coronavirus, and urged communities to do their part in helping one another.
“This [day of prayer] joins us together in this time of suffering and tragedy. We weren’t expecting this pandemic and it came most unexpectedly. But it is now here and many people are dying.
“Sometimes the thought comes to us, that the [coronavirus] hasn’t affected me and I’m okay. But, think about other people, think about the tragedy and consequences – the economic consequences and the consequences for education,” he added.
The head of the Catholic Church had earlier said: “Prayer is our greatest weapon against the virus. What will we remember from this time? The things that unite us. Let us pray to feel like Church, family, and to defeat the pandemic. Let us pray so as to love neighbour. In the face of the coronavirus, we cannot be demoralised.”
Greater connection to God
Shaikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Tolerance, and religious leaders from various faiths also came together for the event. They included Dr Farok Hamda, religious advisor from the court of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi; Bishop Paul Hinder OFM Cap, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia; Marcus Oates, president of the Abu Dhabi Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, executive director and university chaplain at The Bronfman Centre for Jewish Student Life at New York University; Raju Shroff, board member of the Hindu Temple Bur Dubai; and Surender Singh Kandhari, Chairman, Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara – Dubai.
Al Nahyan said: “Today we come with a common hope, common spirit and common need. Let us join together in our community to pray for a resolution to this pandemic, wellness for sick, protection of health care workers, providing inspiration and success to those dedicated in finding tests, vaccines and cures.
“We have a reason for great hope as we have seen countries come together in unprecedented ways, people respond to the need of others with generosity and compassion. In the UAE we are proud to witness the growth of tolerance. We have different religions, cultures, nationalities and have shown compassion and strength. We have come together as one human family and deeply honoured to be part of this prayer meeting,” he added.
Emphasising on the collective power of prayer, Kandhari said : “Most of us do pray in our homes but a prayer meeting with different faiths has a lot of power and a greater connection to God. A value in interfaith prayer lies in its power to unify hearts. Where there is a prayer there is unity. Prayer meetings bring about changes. Praying with one another believers can witness God, produce miracles and change hearts.”
Thanking the UAE leaders, Shroff, for his part emphasised on the power of unity in the times of diversity. He said during these unprecedented times, the world must come together as one. He also offered his prayers the Shanti Paath in Sanskrit, which is a mantra for universal peace.
Earlier in the day, around 75 people joined in the Prayer for Humanity organised by the Jebel Ali Church Complex and Interfaith Committee in Jebel Ali.
Dr Omar Al Muthanna, CEO of Community Development Authority, began the session with a prayer for the rulers and leaders of the UAE, all frontliners and residents and citizens of the country and the world.
He highlighted the need for balancing faith and science and appreciated people of all faiths coming together against one enemy for the first time.
“Whatever the efforts and confidence we put in the scientific advancement, we should always remember that we should surrender ourselves to God. We should maintain a perfect balance between faith and science and pray to the Almighty to help us to find a successful breakthrough to end this pandemic,” Al Muthanna said.
Ashok Kalidas Kotecha, director of the upcoming BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi, added: “A call for prayer has united the entire mankind and today we will see a smile on the face of God as his creations have united.”
Apart from praying for the frontliners, Kotecha offered prayers for all those who have lost their lives, and all those who miss them dearly.
Ahmed Hamed of Al Manar Islamic Centre in Dubai prayed with verses from the Holy Quran and teachings of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
“After praising Allah Almighty, I appreciate the wise leadership of UAE for their compassion, concern and care for the people of UAE and humanity,” he said.
Rev James Frank Burgess, senior pastor of the Fellowship Evangelical Church, for his part, read reassuring passages from the Bible.