Faith leaders call to fight stigma of COVID-19 in Assam

Faith leaders appeal to fight stigma of COVID-19 in Assam

Faith leaders taking part in a webinar on Thursday. (Photo credit: Unicef field office, Assam)
As Assam's COVID-19 tally doubled in the past three days, more than 50 faith leaders on Thursday issued a call to fight the stigma and discrimination against those infected by the virus and the frontline workers helping them.
 
The religious leaders issued the appeal while taking part in a webinar organised by Sphere India, in collaboration with UNICEF and WHO, in which they deliberated on their role in the COVID-19 response.
 
Mufti Nasihur Rehman, an Islamic Maulana, Vaishnavite satra leader Pranav Pran Gowasmi, Brahmakumari Rajyog Seva Kendra’s Sister Sonam, Mr Goldsmith, IAG Convenor were among those who spoke during the webinar. They highlighted the role of faith leaders in support of government response, and specific actions that could be taken to combat stigma including counselling, support to frontline workers, raising awareness on government advisories, among others. 
 
"Faith leaders can play a crucial role in spreading positive messages among leaders of their own faith and others, and by using festivals, their networks, media channels, to spread mass awareness and address fears by providing credible facts and information about COVID-19," said a statement issued by UNICEF field office, Assam.
 
Chief of UNICEF field office, Assam, Madhulika Jonathan stressed on the need to create a space to deliberate on the role of faith leaders in addressing the secondary impact of the COVID-19 crisis on vulnerable communities, especially women and children. “There is need for a larger dialogue with the government for a state-level interfaith alliance working specifically in support of equity issues," Jonathan said.
 
Assam detected 73 COVID-19 new positive cases on Thursday, taking the toll to 856. Of these, 87 have been discharged after recovery. 
 
Vikrant Mahajan, CEO of Sphere India said, “In these testing times, the role of faith-based organisations, civil society and religious leaders is vital in bringing communities together in a shared and unified response. They are integral to the whole of society approach to COVID-19 response and recovery.” 
 
Kausar Hilaly, Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, department of social welfare, Assam said the the rumour and the misinformation spread regarding COVID-19 was adding to the fear and anxiety among communities. "The faith leaders play a crucial role here, most of us are associated with one religion or the another. They have a huge influence on how people think, speak and act. They can play a key role in diffusing tensions and discriminatory attitudes,” he said.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox