A couple of weeks ago, our Youth Sunday School teacher asked if I could attend a webinar about how young peoples’ lives have been affected by the pandemic. It sounded quite interesting, as the pandemic had affected my life, just like everyone else. In Finland, we had a lock down, like many other places, and everything switched to online platforms. But these were not as interactive as face-to-face meetings, and it felt duller. The situation has eased, but there are clear signs of the pandemic still – masks, social distancing, etc. So, I was interested to hear about other peoples’ experiences during the pandemic, about how it was similar to mine and how it was different.
There were three panelists in the meetings. One of them was called Salma. She thought that the pandemic brought out the best in people. The Muslim communities she practices her faith with organized Zoom meetings so that no one would be lonely, and a lot of people attended these meetings. But at the same time, she had had negative experiences. A lot of people started avoiding her because of reports that a lot of Somalis had the coronavirus. Ramadan and Eid, two of the most joyful experiences of the year, felt boring and dull without the company of family and friends. And then there was the fear of the pandemic. But Salma was able to get over her fear after finding a verse in the Quran: “Every soul shall taste death”. This helped her realize we are all mortal, and helped control her fear of the pandemic.
The second panelist was named Daniel and he was from Ireland. He had just become manager of a Buddhist center when the lock down had started. For him, the coronavirus was an eye-opener, with the pandemic showing him that our lives are uncertain and are not controlled by us, but by God. The coronavirus also highlighted the importance of friendship with people of the same age and religion. Most of his friends are atheists, meaning that their priorities and struggles are very different. Being friends with someone who shares your values and principles gives you someone you can talk to. Having someone of your same age and faith also helps you to be bolder when showing that young people do practice faith. Daniel felt this was one of the responsibilities of young people during the pandemic.
The last panelist, Roni, was from Finland. In his opinion, one of the drawbacks of the pandemic was the inability to physically go to an event, for example a Sunday service. He normally volunteers for a lot of organizations, but suddenly those were also gone. Not attending events in person was something that affected his physical life and his spiritual life. When he went to confirmation camp, he had been taught that Christian faith was a chair that stood on four legs – reading the Bible, Holy Communion, prayer, and connection with other people. Suddenly one of the legs of the chair was gone. There were online services and online meetings, but to Roni they just didn’t feel the same. He found it hard to adapt to new situations and surroundings. Two things helped him adjust to the new normal: prayer and the bible verse Acts 17: 27-28: “God is not far from any one of us. In him, we live, move and we are.” The bible verse showed that God is not only present in places of worship, but also near every one of us.
I came to realize through the webinar that faith helped everyone to come to terms with the pandemic. It helped me realize that there are a lot of values in different faiths which offer consolation in difficult times. Faith also helped people to come together even when distanced. Online Sunday services and meetings with the respective faith communities helped people to come together. In some cases, these have been the only interaction people received in the whole week. People who believe in God will have better mental health during the pandemic because they have something to believe in and are able to see the broader picture and not just the immediate future. Practicing faith is a different and a better way to live out your life. The webinar was a good and new experience for me. I am grateful to the Anglican church for allowing me to participate.
Joel Sam Johnson