Religious groups in times of COVID-19

The Corona epidemic is one of the most dangerous crises that humanity has experienced during the 21st century due to the rapid spread of the epidemic, not to mention the inability of the World Health Organization to find the necessary vaccine to limit the high incidence and death, and this crisis has affected the global economic cycle, causing the wheel of life to almost completely stop in most states.

. Socially vulnerable groups were more affected in all societies, and Tunisia was not immune from this crisis, as the Tunisian government announced the imposition of a comprehensive quarantine starting from March 22,2020, which left a social and economic crisis after the closure of many livelihoods for millions of Tunisians. In the light of this, the whole country witnessed a broad solidarity movement led by civil society organizations, not to mention individual solidarity initiatives. In the context of this pandemic, ATTALAKI Association observed complete disregard by state institutions for the status of religious minorities. The state did not provide any assistance or support or ask about their conditions. Whereas, the official state institution represented by the Minister of Religious Affairs confined itself to contacting Christian and Jewish religious leaders to thank them for their response to the comprehensive closure measures that affected all worship centers. On the one hand, the media arena and publicity flashes related to health recommendations to confront the pandemic remained the preserve of the Islamic religion alone, even those that have a religious character. On the other hand, ATTALAKI noted a full commitment to government decisions, including the closure of places of worship, which include churches and temples, while this closure was violated in several mosques. Meanwhile, religious communities (Christians, Jews, Bahais, and Shiites) have taken the initiative to provide aid and donate to the 1818 Fund established by the government. And following the complete lifting of the comprehensive quarantine in June, the ATTALAKI in partnership with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, held on July 10, 2020, a discussion circle that brought together representatives of all religions and with the participation of speakers from Jordan51 and Saudi Arabia to study the social and spiritual effects of the Corona crisis on society, and the interventions were between those who expressed satisfaction with the government’s response to this crisis and among those who denounced the inequality in dealing with different members of society, especially at the level of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which some considered an Islamic ministry primarily.


Among the most important outcomes of this meeting is the agreement to form a crisis cell and a database for volunteers of all religions and sects to work together, present and in the future, in addressing emergency crises. The importance of social cohesion, which is an essential feature that members of society must possess regardless of their differences, was emphasized. For the concept presented by Ibn Khaldun on social solidarity, which he called “asabiyya” and considered it the basic building block of human society and the driving force of the wheel of humanity. The participants also stressed that the values of solidarity must be comprehensive and not linked to specific sects, but on the contrary, they must include all those affected by the crisis regardless of their beliefs, and it was insisted upon that solidarity should be a permanent characteristic, like daily worship, and not in an occasional manner.


By Wided Boughanmi