Distant Prayers? COVID-19, Religion and Conflict

State-mandated social distancing to prevent the spread of the COVID 19 virus has caused unprecedented disruptions to economies and societies around the world. Social isolation has cost jobs and livelihoods, and interrupted familial, cultural and religious practices. Most communities have acquiesced, some reluctantly, to the need to abide by social distancing requirements. Fringe political factions have chosen narratives of defiance including acts of political protest informed by conspiracy theories and pandemic denial. More concerning, some more mainstream religious communities have chosen to defy mandated distancing to fulfill what they frame as a higher and more important requirement to gather for worship. They have endangered public health, either out of a conviction that their worship will protect them, or that their demise would be an acceptable cost for mandated worshipping. Yet, the cost is not theirs alone. We all bear the cost of continued virus transmission.

This working group will begin with web-based reviews of instances of dissent and civil disobedience, continuing with social media scraping of comments and posts related to those instances. We will then research conflict engagement initiatives in multiple civil society contexts in Canada and abroad, searching for innovative, creative or particularly effective initiatives. Following this work, we will map our findings and identify promising ways of ameliorating these conflicts, both from policy and practice perspectives.

Group Lead: Michelle LeBaron (Allard School of Law)

Project Outcomes:

  1. Op-Ed outlining policies and practices that could help in de-escalating tensions and preventing future conflict escalation
  2. An animated short video for PWIAS Youtube channel
  3. Short policy paper to provincial and federal Assistant Deputy Ministers and NGO leaders presenting related policy recommendations
  4. Scholarly article to a wide-circulation journal with online reach
  5. The Distant Prayers Podcast - 6 episodes:  Released December 23, 2020


Podcast link

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