Believers all over the world have been called today to pray and “implore God to lift this pandemic off us and the entire world, to rescue us all from this adversity, to inspire scientists to find a cure that can turn back this disease, and to save the whole world from the health, economic and human repercussions of this serious pandemic.” The idea for an interfaith world-wide day of prayer and fasting was initiated by the Holy See’s Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, which is under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Those familiar with the Catholic-Muslim Dialogue will immediately make the connection between the Higher Committee on Human Fraternity and A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, which was signed Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar University on 4 February 2019 as the result of the pope’s visit to Abu Dhabi. While there have been other joint statements issued by the Holy See and Muslim entities, the document on Human Fraternity is unique in that it is truly the result of cooperation between the Holy See and al-Azhar University.
Almost immediately after the call for the world-wide interfaith day of prayer and fasting, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar University and Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations supported the call.
Although the call is to some extent the fruit of the Catholic-Muslim Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, it is by no means just a Catholic-Muslim endeavor. In a world of increasing tribalism and dangerous nationalism, Pope Francis tends to think globally. His ground-breaking encyclical “Laudato Si’ ” in a break from tradition is addressed not merely to Catholics but “In this encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (par. 3). At the end of the encyclical he adds two prayers, one suitable for Christians and one suitable to all who believe in God (par. 246).
Likewise, once again Francis is making a universal call directed to “each one from wherever they are and according to the teachings of their religion, faith, or sect…” Respecting the sometimes bewildering variety between religions, Francis recognizes the terrifying simplicity of the coronavirus — it kills, and it kills indiscriminately. With that in mind, Francis summons us to a day of prayer and fasting from all humanity for all humanity.
It is not a complicated thing that Francis is requesting: to pray, fast and implore God, each in our own way, to end the pandemic presently afflicting humanity. This is a call to which we at CNEWA commit ourselves and which we recommend to all those who support and receive our services. Indeed, it is a plea for prayer being issued to all believers and people of good will.