Two prominent faith-based charities have come together in a bid to urge the government to recognise the importance of faith leaders at this time of national crisis. Christian Aid and Islamic Relief have united to support health workers and other front-line workers in their efforts, through their international programmes, and by praying for them, with their supporters.
The groups are also seeking to stand in solidarity with millions of Christians and Muslims alike who are unable to worship in traditional ways at churches and mosques due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Patrick Watt, Christian Aid's director of policy, public affairs and campaigns, said: "Around the world, we have seen that faith actors have a vitally important role to play in helping people stay healthy and safe. We urge the UK Government and other governments around the world to recognise the crucial role of faith actors during this crisis."
"And at an unprecedented time when mosques and churches are not accessible in the old ways, we urge people of faith, wherever they are, to worship in the safety of their own homes where possible."
Tufail Hussain, director of Islamic Relief UK, added: "As representatives of these two great global faiths, we jointly pray for all health and front-line workers, around the world, who are tackling the coronavirus pandemic. We ask that Allah shelters, comforts and heals them and their loved ones during this time of international crisis.
"At a testing time like this, it is inspiring to see the great faiths of the world come together in prayer and love."
A recent national poll commissioned by Christian Aid and conducted by Savanta ComRes found that three in five (61 per cent) British adults affirm that faith leaders have a key role to play in providing moral guidance and spiritual leadership during times of national crisis such as the Coronavirus crisis, including one in five (18 per cent) who say they strongly agree. In contrast, just a quarter (24 per cent) of British adults said they disagree.
Earlier this week, the Church of England announced that it would be lifting restrictions on church gatherings "in time and in parallel" with the government's approach. A three-phase approach is expected to be adopted by the church: firstly, with the permitting of streaming services and/or private prayer by clergy, as long as social distancing and hygiene precautions are adhered to. The second phase would entail some basic rites and ceremonies would be introduced, while the final stage would allow worship with "limited congregations."
In conjunction with the new plan, national Church of England guidance is expected to be updated in the "coming days," according to Dame Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London.
Bishop Sarah said: "We are hugely grateful for all that our churches and clergy have been doing to support the Government's message to stay at home, to support the NHS, and to save lives.
"While it is clear there will be no imminent return to normality, the emphasis is now turning towards how and when aspects of social distancing can be eased, although we remain mindful of the potential risks of a second wave of the virus.
"Nevertheless, it now makes sense for us to start to look ahead to the potential easing of restrictions so that our clergy and churches can be prepared."