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4 Best Practices for Online Interfaith Cooperation

Advancements in technology have given us the ability to communicate instantly across the globe. In the midst of the current pandemic, these means for virtual connection are our sole method of communication and cooperation with colleagues and loved ones even across short distances.

Coronavirus has hit close to home as I have relatives quarantined, experienced a death in the family abroad, and became the support that my parents needed in just the nick of time. The advent of the virus coincided with my first week as Regional Coordinator for North America at the United Religions Initiative (URI). URI is a global interfaith, grassroots network that cultivates peace, justice, and healing as a daily routine rather than a movement separate from our mainstream society. At a time of great vulnerability, my task was to find new ways to build bridges in this extraordinary moment.

What are the needs of communities during a time of isolation? How to restore the hope of people seeking wisdom or common sense during difficult and unpredictable times? More importantly, how do we achieve these things while under the demands of staying and working from home? As members of religious, spiritual, and secular communities, our ability to share space and time with one another is paramount when we share mutual grief as well as joy. We can and must make that possible in ways that we haven’t before.

As interfaith leaders, our ability to make space for engaging our colleagues in this work is essential. Using teleconferencing models like Zoom or creating groups on Facebook, individuals can share thoughts, resources, and messages of hope that can help others navigate through individual and collective concerns.

In order to make these spaces effective incubators for positive change, they need to:

  • Maintain decorum that facilitates dialogue and action rather than an environment of volatility; it is tempting and easier to win an argument rather than find a solution that will benefit the wellbeing of others
  • Check facts over all else; it is important to create resource hubs that share the most updated, informative, and helpful information that can help others stick to best practices and prevent the spread of misleading graphics, false information, and the Coronavirus
  • Lean into the basics; with many statistics, complexities, and fears that control the narrative, remind people of the simple acts that can go a long way (e.g. many of the world’s religions demonstrate a need for deep ritual cleansing before prayer and that should extend to our everyday activities as a form of precaution from here on out)
  • Account for the whole person while we are digitally dependent; as we dedicate spaces for prayer and reflection, let’s be sure to find resources and opportunities that support the livelihoods of people in need through food, shelter, medical needs, work and more

During moments of tragedy and peril, we cannot offer a false hope; we must act in good nature for the welfare of others to make hope a real source of joy. When social distancing drives us more to virtual interconnectedness, we don’t have to look for the light at the end of the tunnel—because we are the light in the tunnel.

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