Religious leaders, faith-based organizations, and faith communities can play a major role in saving lives and reducing illness related to COVID-19. They are a primary source of support, comfort, guidance, and direct health care and social service, for the communities they serve. Religious leaders of faith-based organizations and communities of faith can share health information to protect their own members and wider communities, which may be more likely to be accepted than from other sources. They can provide pastoral and spiritual support during public health emergencies and other health challenges and can advocate for the needs of vulnerable populations.
By sharing clear, evidence-based steps to prevent COVID-19, religious-inspired institutions can promote helpful information, prevent and reduce fear and stigma, provide reassurance to people in their communities, and promote health-saving practices. Religious leaders are integrated into their communities through service and compassionate networks and are often able to reach the most vulnerable with assistance and health information and identify those most in need. Religious leaders are a critical link in the safety net for vulnerable people within their faith community and wider communities.
Purpose of this guidance
This document is based on guidance and recommendations developed by WHO in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It acknowledges the special role of religious leaders, faith-based organizations, and faith communities in COVID-19 education, preparedness, and response, through:
- Sharing evidence-based information about COVID-19, preparedness, and response
- Avoiding large group gatherings and conducting rituals and faith-related activities remotely/virtually, as required and whenever possible
- Ensuring that any decision to convene group gatherings for worship, education, or social meetings is based on a sound risk assessment and in line with guidance from national and local authorities
- Ensuring safe faith-based gatherings, ceremonies, and rituals when they do occur
- Strengthening mental and spiritual health, well-being and resilience, through individual contact (while observing appropriate physical distancing) and through social and other communications media
- Ensuring that a human-rights-based approach to advocacy, messaging, and service delivery is systematically upheld
- Addressing stigma, violence, and the incitement of hate
- Promoting ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, and peaceful coexistence during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Ensure that accurate information is shared with communities; counter and address misinformation.