Like so many others, the Victoria Multifaith Society connected online this month, holding our March board meeting online, using Zoom. We started with a check-in to see how each of us is doing, and how our different faith communities are all coping.
It often feels like the world that existed before mid-March has been swallowed whole by the coronavirus, Covid-19. People’s health and the economy are taking incredible hits, with more lives and livelihoods lost with each passing day. And yet as each board member told stories of people rising to meet the challenge, it was impossible not to feel a little stronger, a little more optimistic.
It’s inspiring, this ability of human beings to respond to the unexpected with an extraordinary ramping up of courage and compassion. Swift responses and new heights of competency and leadership have come from every level of society. Elected representatives, public health officials and ordinary people are consulting and cooperating together, implementing needed measures, and earning the respect and trust, even the spontaneous affection, of an anxious population.
Churches, mosques, synagogues, meeting places and homes are responding and adapting, learning to organize and support each other, often lending a hand to the larger community while managing to limit physical interaction. From the local to the international level, coping skills and creativity are being tested by the moving target of Corona consequences that ripple out in all directions.
This particular meeting check-in wasn’t the story of minor tests, travels, or milestones. Our Buddhist board member, Janine, works with the Coalition to End Homelessness, serving a vulnerable population hit doubly hard in times of difficulty. John, the board’s Indigenous member, wrote an article for a national newspaper on the disproportionate impact of a pandemic on Indigenous communities already dealing with trauma and precarious health care. The Sikh and Hindu directors, Parminder and Sri, renowned for their ability to feed multitudes, are working harder than ever within the imposed limits. We’re reminded again of the special gifts that each of our nine traditions bring to the table, and the generosity of spirit that has only increased our mutual trust and affection over the years.
As that same spirit warms interfaith and intercultural relationships all over the world, melting barriers to inclusivity and mutual appreciation of beliefs and cultures, we’re mindful of the silver linings of this pandemic. Our interconnectedness has never before been more apparent. Victoria and VMS are a community of communities. Although they often operate seamlessly and quietly, the efforts of both religious and secular groups to contribute to the betterment of society is what keeps the city humming and the earth firm beneath our feet. It’s important to say to all of the many dozens of hard-working congregations, groups and organizations in the city, “Thank you. We see you.”
Our love and thanks go equally to all the individuals – the citizens and particularly the health workers – doing all they can to help, in countless, compassionate ways. There are far too many people and far too many ways to even mention. Every one of those efforts lifts our spirits, warms our hearts and renews our faith in humanity.
That faith and those skills are needed now more than ever. VMS had originally dedicated this year to encouraging dialogue focused on hope and initiatives around climate change, recognizing that our world is rushing headlong into a disaster caused by the heating of its atmosphere and oceans. In a dramatic turn, the pandemic has temporarily slowed the forces amplifying that malignant process. The hard-won learning currently caused by this pandemic may well be its most valuable silver lining. We hope that the new levels of local and international cooperation will extend forward, allowing all of us to peacefully transition to a future that’s healthy, sustainable and more unified.
Sheila Flood is the Secretary of the Victoria Multifaith Society and its Bahá’í board member. The VMS board has 9 members representing Aboriginal Spirituality, Bahá’í, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism and a non-affiliated seat currently held by the Unity Church. Its mission is “to learn from one another, to celebrate our unity in diversity, to work together for the well-being of the community and the world”.
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking. HERE
*This article was published in the print edition of the TImes Colonist on Saturday, April 4th 2019