Faith communities fight coronavirus on multiple fronts

Faith communities are uniquely positioned to help fight COVID-19. Photo by Patrick Fore.

Faith communities are being underutilised in the fight against COVID-19 despite actively challenging misinformation, helping the vulnerable and providing essential social services according to a new Griffith University report.

The report led by the Centre for Interfaith and Cultural Dialogue (ICD) outlines key insights into how faith communities have mobilised to protect and provide for members and the general public. It also exposes the financial burdens and logistical pressures across Queensland.

Director of Griffith University's Multi-Faith Centre, Brian J Adams
Director of Griffith University’s Centre for Interfaith and Cultural Dialogue, Dr Brian J Adams.

ICD Director Dr Brian Adams, who coordinated the qualitative report, says the findings are a public policy reminder for governments to tap into the unique networks of faith communities.

“Faith communities are often viewed rather broadly through a multicultural lens, which diminishes the unique contribution and impact they have on people’s lives. Our report highlights that we shouldn’t equate faith communities with cultural communities.

“While there is frequent overlap, people are turning to their faith not cultural communities for support and direction. Arguably, they are better vectors for communication and feedback for policymakers.”

Regional and remote faith communities struggling

Overall while most communities are adapting to social distancing restrictions, the hardest hit are the groups which rely most on their faith communities and organisations for support including the elderly, non-English speakers, Indigenous and Pacific Islander communities.

More support was needed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, particularly in regional and remote areas of Far North Queensland and Cape York, which struggle with isolation and social distancing due to poor Internet infrastructure and crowding in the home.

More than 30 faith leaders and government representatives participated in the virtual forum. Photo by Brian J Adams.

Faith groups are frequented by the most at risk to the health and economic effects of the coronavirus from the elderly, international students, recent migrants and the homeless. Working with these groups offers governments valuable access and insight into how the vulnerable are faring.

The report prepared for the Queensland Government is based on a survey and an online community forum held in April to identify issues across a wide spectrum including responses from Bahai, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Sikh faith groups.

Dr Adams, speaking at the Welcoming Cities Symposium last week, said the report shows ICD’s capacity to address disruptive global issues including pandemics, violent extremism and globalised diversity through engagement with faith communities and their strengths.

“I believe that humans have immense capacity to adapt to challenges and changes and the innovation we’ve seen from faith communities bears that out.”

“I believe that humans have immense capacity to adapt to challenges and changes and the innovation we’ve seen from faith communities bears that out. They bring different resources to the table and can respond in unique, beneficial ways.

“Within the Sikh community we’ve seen how they’ve combined a religious tradition with immense logistical experience to mobilise the community in a new setting but with old ideas and values. For me it is both exciting and enriching to see that happen.”