Quarantined Faith: Rome, Religion & Coronavirus

Photos by Dr. Jenn Lindsay

Dr. Jenn Lindsay is a social scientist and documentarian who has crafted ethnographic research and compelling visual stories about social and religious diversity since 1998. She is based in Rome, Italy, where she teaches as a Lecturer in Sociology and Communications at John Cabot University and is a co-founding Producer and Director at So Fare Film Productions. 

In 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic hit Italy first and hardest, closing restaurants, businesses and schools, and suspending all social gatherings. What happens when religion is suspended in Rome? During two months of national lockdown, Romans used creativity and spiritual resilience to celebrate Easter, Passover, and Ramadan. This documentary features interviews with Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant and Buddhist religious leaders—interwoven with eerie images of a desolate and deserted Rome—as Romans explain how their communities “virtually” observed Passover, Easter, and Ramadan during the Covid-19 quarantine, how they maintain resilience and connectedness, and how the crisis has called them to draw more deeply on their spiritual resources. 

As a sociologist and filmmaker, I was captivated by how Romans coped with the coronavirus quarantine through moments of creative solidarity and rebellion. Recognizing this unique moment in history, I busied myself during the quarantine making this documentary. It is a videographic testimony to compelling human solidarity in the face of absurdity and grief. I hope these images will inspire viewers to appreciate the resourcefulness and vitality of the human mind, and the Roman genius to engage humor and beauty to endure a difficult circumstance. The scenes illustrate the documented scientific link between boredom and creativity, and between crisis and coping.

With this film, I want to provide a window into our experience in Italy, the epicenter of the global pandemic. My characters are religious leaders and laypeople from my interfaith network, my neighbors in my building, and in the Appio Latino neighborhood of Rome. This series has been my labor of love to get me through the quarantine, and it gave me a chance to have many profound conversations with all the amazing people featured here—Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Roman Catholics, and Protestants alike. 

Quarantined Faith: Rome, Religion and Coronavirus (Final Cut B) from Jenn Lindsay on Vimeo.

Here is another interfaith meditation on charity work done by Catholic and Muslim groups during Covid-19 quarantine.

Quarantine alla Romana_Charity and Coronavirus from Jenn Lindsay on Vimeo.

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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.