Coronavirus: faiths unite in UAE for global day of prayer

International day of prayer held as show of solidarity during challenging times around world

Faiths will unite on Thursday as people around the world join in prayers for an end to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, formed during Pope Francis's historic visit to Abu Dhabi last year, is urging the international community to join "a day for fasting, prayers and supplications for the good of all humanity".

Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed El Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, led the chorus of support for the "Prayer for Humanity", backed by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

People from all corners of the world and all walks of life – from religious leaders and national leaders to celebrities and politicians – have pledged to take part.

“The number of participants is increasing by the minute and I am sure that after May 14, the idea to pray to God to lift the crisis will continue,” said Monsignor Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, personal secretary to Pope Francis and a member of the fraternity.

People can become involved through the committee's social media platforms and the initiative's official website.

Dr Sultan Al Remeithi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Elders and member of the fraternity, said the international unity on display was a beacon of hope in dark times for many.

Rev Andy Thompson, senior chaplain at St Andrew's Anglican Church in Abu Dhabi, said the UAE's interfaith harmony would be celebrated.

“The Anglican church in Abu Dhabi is calling for day of prayer and fasting in solidarity with our Muslim friends, and those who are suffering from the pandemic,” Rev Thompson said.

Leaders from different faiths in the UAE have produced a video to mark the occasion, with verses from the scriptures of each faith.

The video begins with members of the community displaying  messages of hope before religious leaders, including Rev Thompson, recite verses from their scriptures.

The faiths featured in the film, produced by the Bahai community in the UAE, include Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism.

“A number of us are also participating online in various projects on social media, led by different government ministries who are supporting the call to prayer,” Rev Thompson said.

He said he would be fasting and praying in St Andrew’s church throughout the day.

Charitable acts and fasting have also been encouraged.

“One of the things St Andrew’s church has been doing throughout the coronavirus pandemic is collecting Lulu gift vouchers, which we have been passing on to those who are struggling to make ends meet,” Rev Thompson said.

“Prayer and spirituality essentially should lead to practical action expressed with love and compassion.”

Several churches are conducting online prayer meetings and concerts.

“This initiative reminds us that one of the things that unites so many people across the world is a belief in the power of prayer,” Rev Thompson said.

“There is a universal human instinct to reach out to something or someone that is bigger than us.”