The onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic, which has left nearly two million people dead, has seen Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh worshippers seek solace in prayer.
With places of worship often closed and mass gatherings banned for fear of fanning infections, believers are turning to religious leaders, or to the heavens for answers.
On a sidewalk in Mexico City, Enriqueta Romero tends to a small shrine honouring Our Lady of the Holy Death. The tiny altar, surrounded by candles, plastic virgins and grim reaper figurines is one of the last prayer spaces open in town.
“There are a lot of people outside churches asking God to not forget about us, asking God to take this disease away,” says Romero. “There are a lot of needs.”
“It is thanks to her that I am here,” says street vendor Gabriela Rangel who seeks protection from the shrine. “She doesn’t leave us unemployed, she’s always here for us.”
Social distancing, lockdown and restrictions are exacting a major impact on how worshippers around the world are practising their faith.
In Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox town of Bnei Brak, going to the synagogue to pray three times a day was part of community life. It’s no longer permitted. “We try to improvise as much as possible,” says Rabbi Nechemia Bluestein, 49.
“A new thing that never existed before has emerged — people no longer visit each other (to condole), but rather call on the phone or send a condolence letter,” he adds. “So people need to deal with their loss all by themselves, and it is very difficult.”
– ‘May be just destiny’ –
At the Church of Saint Sava in Belgrade, Serbian Orthodox deacon Mladen Kovacevic believes it is “easier for people who are deeply in the faith to… somehow find comfort and some calm”.
“A priest can do much for his faithful,” he explains. Last year, the Serbian Orthodox Church lost both its patriarch Irinej and Amfilohije, its leader in Montenegro, to Covid-19.