Pandemics and Religious Responses
Author: Jini Agrawal
“I had a little bird
And its name was Enza
I opened the window
School girls jumped rope to a new chant during the Spanish Flu (Fujimura, 2003)
This article is written on April 2020 when the world is grappling with the effects of Covid-19. The news in media outlets, the statuses, the shares and the forwarded messages in social media, and the day to day virtual and face to face conversations has primarily been regarding Covid-19 and its fringes. One of the discussions ongoing with the current pandemic that caught my attention was religion which I would like to delve deeper into with this short research paper.
As per World Health Organization, a pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease (www.who.int, 2010). The new disease is contagious, infectious and most people do not have immunity to it. Most pandemics caused by viruses originated from animal influenza viruses (Atitwa, 2020). For over centuries, the world is battling with multiple pandemics that caused thousands of casualties and created series of economic, religious, and social upheavals. The pandemics have had profound effects on the course of the human and world history. Significant pandemics recorded in human history are The Spanish Flu (1918-1919), The Black Death (1347-1351), HIV/AIDS (1981-1990), The Plague of the Justinian (541 A.D), The Antonine Plague (165-180 A.D), and H1N1/Swine Flu (2009) among many others (Atitwa, 2020).
The definition of religion is a controversial and a complicated subject as many scholars around the globe fail to agree to one definition of religion. The French sociologist and the principal architect of modern social science, Emile Durkheim, defined religion as a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things (Durkheim, 1915). A modern definition of religion is shared by the MacMillan Encyclopedia of Religions where it points out that ‘there is an experiential aspect to religion which can be found in almost every culture: almost every known culture has a depth dimension in cultural experiences toward some sort of ultimacy and transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life. When more or less distinct patterns of behavior are built around this depth dimension in a culture, this structure constitutes religion in its historically recognizable form. Religion is the organization of life around the depth dimensions of experience—varied in form, completeness, and clarity in accordance with the environing culture.’ (The Spiritual Life, 2019)
Pandemics disrupt economies, cause widespread loss of lives, and unsettle social functions such as work, school, religious gatherings, and others. A pandemic can have a significant impact on overall functioning of a country’s health system, as it can draw heavily on health workers and resources. The world has suffered and lived through multiple pandemics and each pandemic has been unique in its source of origin, the wide-spread contamination process, the impact on human lives, the age group it impacts, and so on. For this study, three pandemics Covid-19, The Black Death, and The Spanish Flu are studied to understand how religion has played a role during these pandemics.
a. The Black Death
The Black Death, also known as bubonic plague, ravaged the world from 1347 till 1351 (Augustyn, n.d.). The outbreak began in China and inner Asia, spread to Mediterranean ports and then to Europe and North Africa. It claimed lives of 50 million people including 60% or a third of Europe’s population (Pariona, 23). It is believed that the virus was carried by ground rodents and the war, famine, and weather conditions contributed to the severity of the Black Death (Saylor Academy, 2011).
The plague had an enormous impact on Europe’s economy, society, religion, belief, literature and art which contributed to Europe’s emergence into the Renaissance, an age of exploration (Franke, 2018). The plague was referred as ‘black’ in the sense of glum, lugubrious, or dreadful as to denote the terribleness and gloom of the events (Saylor Academy, 2011). In some historical pieces, it has also been mentioned that the plague was called black because of the enormous amount of dead and the color of the corpses. During the black plague, the idea of quarantine first emerged. From the Italian word 30, a 30-day long period was called trentino but eventually became solidified in practice as quarantine from the Italian word for 40.
The Black Death is considered to be the most significant cause of economic distress in the middle ages, the immediate effect was a general paralysis. In the longer run, supply, demand, prices, labor wages, agriculture and production were affected (Euroform Healthcare, 2020). Trade was largely ceased, war between England and France was halted by truce and peace lasted for six years (Stilson, 1975).
b. The Spanish Flu
The Spanish Flu, also known as the 1918 flu, infected several countries from 1918 to 1919. The flu infected more than one-third of the world’s population and more than 50 million people are estimated to have died (World Health Organization, 2020). This flu is thought to have begun in cramped and crowded army training camp in the U.S.A (Andrews, 2016). Military barracks have been fertile ground for outbreaks of contagious diseases as they bring people from many regions in close quarters under high stress. These barracks and camps usually had unsanitary conditions that help incubate and spread the virus easily (Dowling, 2020). The global travel coinciding with World War I spread the virus to every continent (Polk County Public School, 2018). From the U.S.A, the army men traveled to France and so the virus spread from U.S.A to France to Italy to Spain to other parts of the Europe and then the other parts of the world. The United States lost 675,000 people to the Spanish Flu in 1918- more casualties than World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined (Fujimura, 2003). British colonized India lost as many as 18 million people in the pandemic- the greatest loss in absolute numbers of any country in the world (Spinney, 2017)
The pandemic earned the name “Spanish Flu” because during World War I, wartime censors minimized early reports of illness and mortality in combating nations but the Spanish papers were free to report the epidemic’s effects in neutral Spain, which created a false impression of Spain as being especially hard hit (Brown M. , 2020). The virus killed more young adults than children and elderly. It is believed that the spread of Spanish flu was more gradual as air travel was still a new mode of travel and the virus was spread via rail or sea which gave some places months or even years to prepare before the flu arrived in their countries (Laguipo, 2020).
Few doctors have described the Spanish flu as the greatest medical holocaust in history (Dowling, 2020). There was no vaccine to protect against influenza infection and no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections and hence control efforts worldwide were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, limitations of public gatherings and others (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019). The flu broke out in a world which had just come out of a global war, with vital resources diverted to war efforts. The flu spurred the development of public health systems across the developed world, as scientists and governments realized that pandemics would spread more quickly (Dowling, 2020).
Covid-19, also widely known as Novel Corona Virus and SARS-CoV-2, is believed to have originated in December 2019 in Wuhan City, in the Hubei province of China (Santilli, 2020). In early 2020, the virus spread quickly to over 100 countries around the world. As per the statistics of mid- April 2020, Covid-19 has infected more than 2 million people worldwide and caused death of 150,000 people (Worldometer, 2020). Corona virus is not a new virus as other strains of the corona virus has caused outbreaks such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and middle east respiratory syndrome (MERS). This current strain of zoonotic virus belongs to a class of disease that can transfer from animals to humans, and the other way around (Santilli, 2020). Covid-19 virus usually threatens older adults, people with weak immune system and people with severe underlying health conditions. A carrier of the virus can be asymptomatic or someone with mild, severe or moderate symptoms.
Covid-19 pandemic, like other pandemics, has continued to cause global economic and social crisis. The International Monetary Fund forecasts the year 2020 to be the economy’s worst year since the Great Depression of 1930s and expects the global economy to shrink far worse than the global financial crisis/great recession in 2008 -2009 (Wiseman & Crutsinger, 2020). As per the reports of The World Bank, the Asian region could slow to 2.1% in 2020 and can cause 11 million people to fall into poverty (Press, 2020). Economists estimate that the virus could cost the global economy USD 2.7 trillion which is equal to the GDP of the U.K (Orlik, Rush, Cousin, & Hong, 2020). The virus is already causing high unemployment rates in the U.S.A which is estimated to hit 32%, that is job losses of 47 million (Cox, 2020).
This study has limitations as limited information is available on previous pandemics and the information in regards to the current pandemic of Covid-19 has been continuously changing. Most of the literature related to Covid-19 has been taken from news websites as it is the main source of literature and information given the pandemic is ongoing and very recent.
V. Religious Responses and The Three Pandemics
A. Religious Responses during The Black Death
In the early 1930s, Europe’s predominantly organized religion, the Roman Catholic Church, blamed minorities for the pandemic and persecuted Jews, lepers, foreigners and others.
a. Execution of the Jews
The lack of understanding of the disease led the Church to blame the Jews of poisoning the water wells (Pariona, 23) and few church leaders tortured the Jews to confess that they had poisoned the wells in order to kill the Christians (Birnbaum, Eli, n.d.). As a result of this accusation, anti-Semitism greatly intensified throughout Europe from 1348 onwards and thousands of Jews were attacked and killed by mobs or burned at the stake en masse. In Basel, 600 Jews along with rabbi were killed, 140 children forcibly baptized, cemetery and synagogues destroyed and others expelled (Birnbaum, Eli, n.d.). In Freiburg all known Jews were herded into a large wooden building and burned to death, and in Strassburg over two thousand are said to have been hanged on a scaffold set up in the Jewish burial ground (Stilson, 1975). In Mayence and Breslau of Germany, 10,000 Jews died after mobs marched into Jewish quarter and set the houses on fire (Birnbaum, Eli, n.d.). By 1351, 60 major and 150 smaller Jewish communities had been exterminated, and more than 350 separate massacres had occurred (World Health Organization, 2019). Because of this epidemic, the Jewish population of Europe became identified as the traditional scapegoat and this set the stage for another tragedy few years later.
b. Weakening of the Roman Catholic Church
While the Church during the Black Death blamed minorities for the deaths, they also used it as an opportunity to show the uncertainty of human life and to impress upon the people the everyone is equal at least in death. The church preached that anything beyond the human control, good or bad, was a divine consequence (Franke, 2018). The pious people turned towards the church for help, guidance and healing and questioned why they were not saved from God’s punishment, even though they donated generously to the church. No one, including the church, was able to cure or even explain the plague which led to people question the authority of the Church. At that time the Church was also weakened materially and with the loss of manpower, it was becoming impoverished because of its inability to cultivate vast tracts of land that were its main support (Stilson, 1975). Another reason for the Catholic Church’s loss of influence and power came with people’s loss of love and respect for the clergy. A large number of holy clergy either died of the plague or abandoned their duties and fled since they were not able to cure or even explain the plague (World Health Organization, 2019). The Church had been forced to replace with new clergy members who did not show convictions, experiences, and devotion of the veterans they replaced which caused increased doubting of the clergy and the Church. Hence, the Christian Church in the thirteenth century lost prestige, spiritual authority, and leadership over the people, and impacted people’s religious beliefs allowing for religious freedom and exploration.
c. Surge of the Flagellants
Alienation from the church resulted in support for one or the other of two extremes in religion and moral. Moral hardly existed for one part of the population and a cynical unhappy pursuit of pleasure swept in this segment. Others developed a masochistic urge to accept or divert the divine punishment which resulted in organized mass flagellation (Stilson, 1975). The flagellants, who thought the plague was a divine punishment, chastised themselves to divert the punishment (Stilson, 1975). But later the flagellants were often looked upon as spreaders of the disease as they traveled from town to town (World Health Organization, 2019).
B. Religious Responses during The Spanish Flu
The Spanish flu that infected half a billion spread rapidly and due to the lack of information on the flu, rumors and disinformation spread more quickly.
a. Response from the Church
Many people believed that the pandemic was an act of god- divine retribution for people’s sin (Spinney, 2017). In many parts of the world, health commissioners requested churches to be closed and requested people to engage in prayer privately at home. However, many clergy members were not comfortable to omit all the church services. The clergy members in the District of Colombia (D.C) in the U.S.A debated that prohibiting church gatherings constituted a threat to religious liberty and that the church gatherings could have positive effect on fighting the influenza (Morell, 2020). The clergy members also debated saying the Christian Church was not a luxury but was a necessity to the life and perpetuity of any nation, and the churches were potential anti-influenza workers who were fit to co-operate with doctors and nurses (Morell, 2020). In Ohio, U.S.A, a priest declared no interest in following the health boards order that prohibited all public gatherings. Indeed, there was widespread indignation and dignitaries of the Catholic Church who joined the protest against the disregard of an order that was issued to safeguard the health of the community (Gehrz, 2020). In the Spanish city of Zamora, the bishop defied the health authorities’ ban on mass gatherings and ordered people into the churches to placate God’s legitimate anger (Spinney, 2017). The city consequently recorded one of the highest death tolls from flu in Spain. In California, U.S.A, interim pastor suggested that the churches themselves were to blame for the pandemic. The pastor preached that Christian churches had been lamentably weak in moral and spiritual leadership and had become conventional, cowardly, and worldly and so people and the churches must repent their sins once the plagues ceases (Gehrz, 2020).
b. Rise of Adventists
While the Churches were closing during the pandemic, the Adventists saw this is an opportunity for carrying their gospel to the world. Some Adventists who took a holier-than-thou approach, cited their immunity from the disease as an evidence of their own righteousness, while attributing the misfortune of their brother to their lack of fidelity (Campbell, 2020). Since the hospitals were overwhelmed, few Adventists’ home became a center for medical missionary work, teaching and ministering to other. One example of how Adventists responded occurred at Minnesota, U.S.A where half of the 180-student body came down with the disease. The seminary practiced self-isolation, quarantining students as they became sick, and focused on boosting immune systems with a healthy diet and fomentations placed on the chest and abdomen (Campbell, 2020). Soon the students recovered and Adventists became well known as health reformers and gained communities’ trust.
c. Pleasing of Dragons
In China, dragons are believed to have a divine prodigy. During the pandemic, in many rural parts of China, people believed that the flu was sent by demons and dragons. So in the hope of appeasing the irate spirits, the Chinese people paraded figures of dragon kings through the streets (Spinney, 2017).
C. Religious Responses during Covid- 19
The Covid-19 pandemic has been no different from other pandemics in terms of religious responses.
a. Schincheonji Church in South Korea
In South Korea, the spread of Coronavirus cases was linked to a church by the officials. The Schincheonji Church of Jesus, a church viewed as a cult within South Korea and as a mainstream Christian organization, is blamed for a large majority of more than 4,000 confirmed cases of the South Korean outbreak in February and March 2020 (Stella & Reuters, 2020). In the Korean city of Daegu, a 61-year-old woman, also known as Patient No. 31, attended services twice in February despite developing the illness. As the church makes its members to sit on the floor tightly together during services and does not allow its members to wear anything on the faces such as glasses or masks (Woods, 2020), the virus spread quickly among people who attended the services. Also, the Church preaches that getting sick is a sin as it prevents the worshippers from doing God’s work (Woods, 2020) which resulted in Patient No. 31 not going through the testing process sooner.
Lee Man-hee, the self-professed messiah and the reclusive head of the Church, has been accused of homicide, causing harm, and violating the Infectious Disease and Control Act (Bicker, 2020). The Church leader, who also claims he is the second coming of Jesus Christ, previously called coronavirus the devil’s deed to stop his Church’s growth (Champion, 2020). The officials have accused the Church and the Church leader of exacerbating the outbreak by deliberately failing to provide an accurate list of its more than 200,000 worshippers and thus interfering with government attempts to curb the virus’ spread (Gregory, 2020). The sect’s handling of the outbreak has sparked a petition calling for the Church to be disbanded which has been signed by nearly 1.2 million people (Bicker, 2020). As of the end of March 2020, all 230,000 members of the church have been interviewed and nearly 9,000 said they were showing symptoms of the virus (Bicker, 2020).
b. Muslim Gathering in Malaysia
Similar to India, an Islamic evangelical event of an essential part of Tablighi Jamaat known as Tablighi Ijtema was held in a mosque in Malaysia which caused the virus to spread on a mass scale (OpIndia, 2020). The Malaysian authorities have said that the event was attended by more than 16,000 people including around 14,500 Malaysians and 1,500 foreigners in the last week of February 2020 (Ng, 2020). Out of the confirmed cases in Malaysia in mid-march 2020, nearly two-thirds of the new cases were linked to the mosque gathering (Williams, 2020). The positive cases were seen in many Southeast Asian countries related to the gathering including 50 cases in Brunei, 5 in Singapore, 13 in Cambodia, 2 in Thailand (Ananthalakshmi & Sipalan, 2020) and 67 in Vietnam (Williams, 2020). The virus spread quickly as worshippers prayed shoulder-to-shoulder inside the mosque, held hand during the religious ceremony, and shared plates when meals were served (Ananthalakshmi & Sipalan, 2020). The leaders of the event in Malaysia remained silent after the outbreak but later urged to get screened for the virus (Ng, 2020) and conduct prayers at home. However few worshippers who attended the event have since refused to be tested, preferring to rely on God to protect them (Ananthalakshmi & Sipalan, 2020). Few worshippers have expressed disappointment and viewed it unfair as they feel that their community is being blamed entirely for the outbreak and there was no ban on gathering by government when the event took place.
c. Muslim Minorities in India
In India, Muslim minorities are being targeted and solely blamed for the spread of the virus. In mid-March of 2020, an estimated 1500 to 2000 people attended Tablighi Jamaat missionary group’s annual meeting in the capital of India (Mohammad, 2020). Tabhighi Jamaat is a Deobandi Sunni Muslim missionary movement with members in over 150 countries and every year tens of thousands attend its congregations in Pakistan or other parts of South Asia (Miglani & Bukhari, US News, 2020). After the congressing, it is customary for the members to travel, knocking on the doors of other Muslims to convince them to turn to what they consider a truer form of Islam, which involves dressing and living in more traditional ways (Jha & Dixit, 2020). The authorities in India has brought charges of culpable homicide against the chief of congregation for holding a gathering that authorities say led to a big jump in coronavirus infections. Authorities claim that a third of the nearly 3,000 coronavirus cases at that time were either people who attended the Tablighi gathering or those who were later exposed to them (Miglani & Ahmed, Reuters, 2020). The ruling Hindu nationalist party has also claimed that the Tablighi members intended to infect millions as part of an Islamic conspiracy and were carrying out corona terrorism (Petersen & Rahman, 2020). These hate messages have resulted in more religious hatred in India where a decades-long conflict between the majority Hindus and minority Muslims has seen a surge in recent times. The authorities and the leading party is believed to be trying to shift the blame and portray the pandemic as a part of communal conflict, scapegoating the religion (Mohammad, 2020).
The country’s Muslim population has since been accused, without any basis, and has witnessed a string of attacks by Hindu extremists. News channels and social media is effectively propagating anti-muslim sentiment where Muslims are being accused of corona jihad, human bombs, and corona superspreaders (Mohammad, 2020) (Jha & Dixit, 2020). There has been multiple reports of Hindu mobs attacking Muslim houses and shops, boycotting Muslim-owned business across India, barring Muslims from entering certain neighborhoods, attacking Muslims and asking them to convert to Hinduism, and harassing Muslim volunteers and others (Petersen & Rahman, 2020). The misinformation, propaganda by the ruling party, harmful communal language and islamophobic conspiracy theories could possibly sow violence even after the pandemic.
d. Church in U.S.A
In a few states in the U.S.A, pastors and Church leaders have disagreed to close Church in their communities. In Louisiana, Pastor Spell defied public orders against large gatherings by holding church service with hundreds of members and this misdemeanor summons Pastor Spell for six counts of violating the governor’s executive order (Burke & Lynch, 2020). Pastor Spell disagreed to close the Church accusing the government prohibiting the exercise of religion and requested people to continue going to church, worshipping God as the church is a hospital for the sick and a place of healing for the brokenhearted (Burke, 2020). As of end of March 2020, Louisiana had recorded more than 5,200 cases of coronavirus with 239 deaths (Burke & Lynch, 2020). In a small Kentucky community, a local church revival was linked to at least 28 new cases and two deaths as people did not practice social distancing at the event and after the church acknowledged that the families had the flu through the gathering, it did not encourage its members to self-quarantine (Loosemore & McLaren, 2020). Similarly, in Arkansas, nearly three dozen people who attended a children’s event at a church were tested positive for the virus including the pastor and his wife (Griffith, 2020). An evangelical Pastor Browne of Florida held crowded services in church and encouraged congregants to hug in defiance of health warnings (Brown L. , 2020). He emphasized that the church is the safest place and God would protect its people (Parke, 2020). Despite US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to not have a gathering of 50 people or more, editor R. R. Reno of conservative Catholic magazine First Things chastised bishops in the U.S who suspended Mass and closed their churches and suggested people could gather while maintaining social distancing (Burke, 2020).
e. Leadership by Pope and the Catholic Church
Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State, urged people to ease their fears through faith while standing alone in vast Saint Peter’s Square (Marciano, 2020). The Pope encouraged people to stay at home during the lockdown and pray for the sick, the dead, and the elderly alone (Winfield, 2020). Pope Francis postponed two major international Catholic Church events by a year which has affected long-term planning of the 1.3 billion-member Church (Pullella, 2020), indicating the need to pay attention to the ongoing crisis. The pandemic has radically changed the way Vatican operates as the Sunday mass was celebrated in an empty Church. The Pope has shared that the pandemic could be nature’s response to climate crisis, and it has offered an opportunity to people to slow down the rate of production and consumption and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world (Gallagher, 9). This leadership by Pope and the Catholic Church has urged people to stay at home while practicing their faith in isolation.
f. Closure of Hajj and many Hindu Temples
In February 2020, Saudi Arabia took the extraordinary decision to close off the holy cities of Mecca and Medina to foreigners over the virus, a step which wasn’t taken even during the 1918 flu epidemic (Batrawy & Gambrell, 2020). Hajj, an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, attracts close to 3 million people from around the world every year and transforms the holy shrines into the most densely packed pocket on earth for up to one week a year (Chulov, 2020) . Such conditions are understood to be ideal for an even quicker spread of coronavirus.
Similarly, many Hindu temples around the world were closed in response to the crisis. Tirumala Tirupati Hindu temple which receives 75,000-90,000 devotees each day and is regarded to be the world’s richest temple closed its door to its devotees in March 2020 (Jain, 2020). The Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam (BAPS) Swaminarayan Sanstha, which runs about 100 temples in the US and receives thousands of devotees every month, closed all temples globally the same month (The Times of India, 2020).
g. New Ways of Celebrating Passover, Easter and Vaisakhi
Passover is one of the most important and widely observed Jewish holidays of the year which typically brings friends, relatives and even strangers together at a table to celebrate freedom and is highlighted by a Seder dinner (N’dea Yancey Bragg & Markoe, 2020). In Jewish community, Passover is a time to reconnect and reinforce intergenerational family bonds (Rosen, 2020) but amidst the restriction of Corona virus, the commemoration took place either within nuclear families only or virtually through video calling apps (N’dea Yancey Bragg & Markoe, 2020).
Just like the Jews, the Christians also celebrated a solitary Easter Sunday. The Pope, the Vatican and the Church were forced to modify centuries of tradition of celebrating Mass from large gathering in St. Peter’s Basilica to largely empty St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time (Pullela, 2020). Pope Francis Mass was a scene that was repeated around the world, with churches either closed or, for the few still open, forcing the faithful to practice social distancing (Winfield, 2020). The families celebrated Easter again in nuclear families and/or virtually with relatives far and near.
Vaishaki celebrations were also cancelled worldwide. Vaishaki is celebrated to mark the year 1699 when Sikhism was born as a collective faith and the Khalsa was created as a body of initiated Sikhs (Duffield, 2020). During Vaishaki, thousands of people congregate to pray at Gurudwaras, organize processions on the streets, and share festive food with each other (HT Media Limited, 2020). The leaders of the Sheikh community shared that no event in the Shikh calendar should endanger lives (Gupta & Kaur, 2020) and the decision to cancel the celebration was taken to avoid all risk to public safety and health. Like other celebrations, religious worships were moved online from Gurudwaras to people’s home.
Many pandemics have occurred in human history and some of these pandemics have adversely affected the course of human life and history. Religion has existed from the time humans have existed and, from early ages till today, religion continues to unite or divide people and communities. Religion has been a very sensitive issue and during times of stress and discomfort, it tends to aggregate emotions and can cause multiplied destruction.
After studying the three pandemics and its religious responses, as a researcher, I can find many similarities and difference in responses to pandemics from the early 1300s to date in early 2000s. In every religion, orthodox and extremists have continued to exist who propagate against one community or another and engage in violent practices. These extremists are seen promulgating hate by creating fear and sometimes by citing historical irrelevant events. In the latest pandemic, however, global religious leaders have shown sensitivity and tried leading their followers through example. The leaders have not negated the scientific studies and have urged to follow public orders for everyone’s safety. New ways of practicing faith were introduced and encouraged by these leaders which ensures everyone’s right to exercise religion is well preserved. Several historical events mentioned in this paper thus clearly indicate the role religious leaders can play during the times of outbreak.
Along with the religious leaders, the political leaders, government bodies, media, and the civic society also play a crucial role in handling the pandemics and probable communal or religious violence. The governing authorities, along with being materialistically and strategically prepared, should consider how it can sensibly handle religious issues which bound to develop during the times of crisis. Religious hatred gains stimulus during such difficult times as people and communities engage in blaming minority and religious groups. In the 21st century, communal violence can spread and erupt immediately due to people’s access to true and untrue information through mainstream and social media. This often leads to stigmatization of a community and, as examined during the Black Plague, it usually sets stage for future violence and atrocities against minority communities. Hate speech during such times should be punishable and statistics on the pandemic shown to public should not segregate figures in terms of religion or community. Combined effort by every individual can only lead to effective response.
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Author’s Bio: Jini Agrawal is a UPEACE Graduate (2013-2014) whereby she completed her masters in Media, Peace and Conflict Studies. Jini is an international development and management expert and has experience working in national and international media and development organizations. She has experience working in Nepal and in the U.S and with multilateral and bilateral organizations such as Department of State, DFID, Asian Development Bank, The World Bank, UN agencies, and others. Currently, she is leading Miyamoto International Nepal and Miyamoto Global Disaster Relief Nepal. She is also a part of international development team whereby she focuses on regional project development (Asia and the Pacific).
*Please note that all opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not represent the official position of the University for Peace