Prominent leaders from religious groups across the UK have signed an open letter urging the public to join them in a national remembrance day in honour of those who lost their lives as a result of coronavirus.
More than 200 other organisations have already expressed their support for the National Day of Reflection, due to be held on Tuesday 23rd March, exactly a year since the UK was first told to stay at home.
In the letter, faith leaders recognise the importance of “the ability to grieve properly” and highlight “how high the cost will be of our inability to do that.”
It continues: “While we can’t turn back time, we can build opportunities to mourn as a nation. That’s why this Tuesday (23 March), we are asking the nation to join us in doing two things. To take a minute to reflect by taking part in the nationwide silence at noon, and then take a moment to connect; to reach out to someone you know is grieving and who might like your support.”
According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, 145,647 deaths had occurred in the UK by 26th February this year where covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who intends to observe the minute’s silence at noon in private, said: “This has been an incredibly difficult year for our country. My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones, and who have not been able to pay tribute to them in the way they would have wanted”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford have also expressed their support for the day of reflection.
The National Day of Reflection will see prominent buildings including churches and cathedrals lit up at 8pm across the UK and commemorative community-led activities such as virtual reflective assemblies, choirs, special services and candle lighting on doorsteps taking place. Bells will also toll at 12:01 to mark the end of the minute of silence.
Bishop of London, Rt Revd Dame Sarah Mullally, has encouraged people not only to reflect on the lives lost to the pandemic but to consider reaching out to connect with those who have survived and who need support and love.
“Alongside all of the pain, the pandemic has also given us something, a renewed sense of community and a sense that we are looking out for each other. Please join us in marking both of these.”
Organisers hope the National Day of Reflection will become an annual event.