Coronavirus and religion – update 2 April 2020

By Lianne Kolirin

UK news

The first four doctors to die of the Coronavirus in Britain, while fighting on the pandemic’s frontline, were all Muslim. The contributions of Alfa Sa’adu, who had come out of retirement to volunteer; Amged el-Hawrani, an ear nose and throat consultant; Adil El Tayar, an organ transplant consultant and Habib Zaidi, a GP, were described as “immeasurable” by Dr Salman Waqar, the general secretary of the British Islamic Medical Association. He said:

“The medical and the Muslim community mourns the loss of these brilliant individuals. ..They were senior clinicians who were devoted to their profession and to serving their communities. They have given the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their patients, and for this, we are incredibly grateful.”
He told Al Jazeera: “They were devoted family men, committed senior doctors, and dedicated decades of service to their communities and patients.  We urge everyone to do their part and stop further deaths from happening – stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.”

Harun Khan, Secretary General of the MCB said:  “Today we pay tribute to the incredible work of Dr Adil El Tayar, Dr Habib Zaidi and Amged El-Hawrani, who dedicated their lives to helping others. Our society is undoubtedly poorer without them, but we thank them for their service and offer our condolences to their families and loved ones. We pray Allah forgives them, accepts their deeds and grants their families patience and relief.
It is not possible to pay tribute to these three sterling individuals without recognising the incredible work of all staff in the NHS, who are giving all of their time and energy to serving their nation, helping the vulnerable, and keeping us all safe. These are trying times for all of us, but it is our healthcare workers who are bearing the brunt of this.  We thank them for all of their hard work, recognise their tremendous efforts, and heed the advice of medical professionals to take all necessary precautions, stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”

As Easter approaches, the Church of England is asking Christians to make their own paper or card ‘palm’ crosses and display them in their windows on Palm Sunday – April 5th. The Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, will lead a service at 9am on Facebook that day, marking the start of Holy Week and Easter.

Church choirs have been “ripped apart” by the coronavirus lockdown, prompting many to explore “imaginative solutions”, according to the Church Times. Hugh Morris, director of the Royal School of Church Music said: “Coronavirus has had a devastating effect on church musicians, since it has literally ripped apart the many close-knit groups of singers and instrumentalists who spend significant amounts of time together in joint effort. For church musicians paid by the service, it is also a really difficult situation.”  

Jewish medics have written an open letter to their community in Britain urging them to heed the government’s advice on social distancing.  Billed as an “urgent message for the community,” the letter, which has been published in the Jewish News is signed by a host of doctors, among them GPs, consultants in emergency medicine, psychiatrists and a public health consultant.  It comes as it emerges that the Jewish community has suffered a disproportionately high number of fatalities. As of Tuesday evening, the number of Jewish deaths stood at 55 – amounting to the 2.3 per cent of the confirmed national toll, according to the Board of Deputies of British Jews.  “This is an emergency. Many in our community are sick, and some have lost their lives. The virus is spreading fast,” states the letter, which has been signed by more than health professionals working on the coronavirus frontline.


The  Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, has exempted religious services from a 30 day ‘stay at home’ order. The directive says attending “religious services conducted in churches, synagogues and houses of worship” is an essential activity.  “If religious services cannot be conducted from home or through remote services, they should be conducted consistent with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC by practicing good hygiene, environmental cleanliness, and sanitation, and by implementing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the order read.

An open letter to American Roman Catholic bishops has urged them to restore the Sacraments amid the pandemic.  Catholics are being urged to go online and sign the letter which argues that “something is terribly wrong with a culture that allows abortion clinics and liquor stores to remain open but shuts down places of worship”. The campaign has been spearheaded by recently retired Dr. Janet E. Smith,who held the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. She says the issue is  one of “religious liberty” and describes the sacraments as “the spiritual ‘Personal Protective Equipment’ of Catholics” She added: “We hope bishops are pressing governments and hospitals to rescind policies that deny priests access to seriously sick and dying patients”.


The Christian evangelist Franklin Graham has postponed indefinitely a tour to the UK.  The son of evangelist Billy Graham had been  planning a four-month tour of the UK, but he was banned by all eight venues where he was due to appear.  They cited  opposition to his views, especially on homosexuality, as incompatible with their values of equality, diversity and inclusivity.  Now the tour has been put on hold “while the legal issues relating to his cancelled venue bookings are resolved”.  Mr Graham has insisted the tour will still go ahead and that he “will not compromise” on his message.  In a statement released through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Mr Franklin said of the planned venues: “They broke their legally-binding contracts with us because we preach a message of God’s love, stand uncompromisingly on traditional Biblical beliefs about human sexuality, and share with all people that Jesus Christ is the only way they can be forgiven of sin and have a right relationship with God.  Since the legal process takes time, we have prayerfully decided to postpone the Tour until the issues are resolved and the venues become available again.”