Calling it the “the most challenging crisis we have faced since the Second World War,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has declared the COVID-19 pandemic to be “much more than a health crisis. It is a human crisis. The coronavirus disease is attacking societies at their core.” His words are a vivid reminder that as the world began rebuilding after the desolation of World War II, the United Nations in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights unequivocally proclaimed the indispensable foundation upon which society rests: “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” This oft-forgotten reality is being re-discovered as the global pandemic sends multitudes home to the ultimate human refuge, the family.
Meanwhile, mankind is likewise re-discovering its shared humanity and relationship to Deity. “These trying times are also allowing us to re-discover our common humanity as brothers and sisters,” stated the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union and the Conference of European Churches in a joint statement, while the Reverend Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, declared, “At this challenging time, prayerful activities that unite us are a reminder that we are one human family.” When Pope Francis introduced his prayer for the world, he stated, “As trusting sons and daughters, we turn to the Lord” and “implore mercy for all of humanity so harshly tried by the coronavirus pandemic. We will do so together, Christians of every church and community, of every age, language and nation.”
That same day, the Interfaith Encounter Association (bringing together Israelis and Palestinians of different faiths) announced its “Interfaith Prayer for Humanity’s Health” by explaining that, “As both the pope called Christians to pray at midday and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel called Jews to pray at 4:30 p.m. that day—for the same goal to implore God to rid the world of the coronavirus pandemic—we thought it would be most appropriate to connect the two with an interfaith prayer in the middle.”
These extraordinary expressions of worldwide faith are a timely herald to the sacred festivals about to be observed by Jews and Christians. At Passover, Jews remember how God saved their ancestors by protecting them when the deadly plague that befell Egypt passed over the Israelites. For Christians, Passover is remembered as the last meal Jesus ate with His disciples before His Passion and glorious resurrection, which is celebrated on Easter. Both celebrations point to the power and mercy of God, to whom mankind now turns for relief from COVID-19. At this critical time of crisis, the International Organization for the Family joins with our brothers and sisters around the world as we, anchored in faith and family, pray to the Creator of all mankind for deliverance and healing.