As the coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, many religious traditions are being profoundly impacted. From closing down churches to banning communion, religious leaders are scrambling to do everything in their power to stop the spread of the disease among their congregations.
Worship services at a catholic church in Wisconsin have looked very different since the outbreak. Acting on their pastor’s orders, parishioners at St. Mary Catholic Church of Kenosha have exchanged germ-spreading handshakes for a small bow.
“For people who are very committed to coming to Mass and praying together as a community, this is going to be difficult for them,” the church’s pastor, Rev. Roman Stikel, told the New York Times. “What we’ll hope and pray for is that this is something that will pass.”
At Temple De Hirsch Sinai synagogue in Seattle, worshippers have been instructed to cease hugging and kissing. Instead, they are to engage in an unconventional “elbow bump.” This, the leaders say, is a “more appropriate way of offering a warm welcome while also staying healthy.”
In the Islamic world, significant steps have been taken to prevent Muslims from spreading the disease while observing traditional journeys of pilgrimage. Last week, Saudi Arabia announced it would be banning all foreign visitors from making the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina — the holiest sites in Islam. Over two million people visit Mecca every single year.
Iran, which has suffered the highest rates of infection outside mainland China, has taken the drastic action of canceling Friday prayers in all the nation’s major cities. Stopping mass gatherings, they say, will stem the flow of transmission.
“The virus has no wings to fly,” Iranian Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said of the health epidemic, according to Fox News. “We are the ones who transfer it to each other.”
The global death toll is now pushing towards 3,500, with the total number of people infected just under 100,000.
This week, the World Health Organization announced that 3.4 percent of people infected with the COVID-19 globally have died, making it more deadly than the common flu.