18 January 2021

Creativity and Adaptation in Times of Covid-19

So many situations have been and still are extremely challenging in this season we are all living around the globe and our first thoughts go to all the people who are sick and to those who lost dear ones in this pandemic.

At different levels, Covid-19 required all of us to change many things in our daily life. For some of our JPII Leaders, they had to get creative to find new ways of carrying out their interreligious grant projects in compliance with health regulations limitations.

Sister Vimal Jyothy (Cohort X) is a general physician at St. Mary’s Hospital in Malur, India. She has always considered that her professional medical activity can be very much connected to interreligious dialogue. After the completion of the Russell Berrie Fellowship in 2018, she went back to India and she kept being active in dialogue. Sister Vimal was awarded a grant from the JPII Center to run a project whose goal was “to offer opportunities to the people of the local community with a special focus on youth participation, to engage in interreligious dialogue, intercultural campaign, and humanitarian activities, and to become active leaders and partners in peace processes in peacebuilding,” she explains.

Due to the pandemic, her plan could not be implemented the way she envisioned. However, she successfully managed to adapt to the new conditions because of her determination to support dialogue in these challenging times. On December 21, 2020, she organized a webinar on “Promoting global peace by dialogue and action during Covid-19 pandemic” with a rich panel of speakers. Among them were three other JPII Leaders: Taras Dzyubanskyy (Cohort III) from Ukraine, Sr. Gracy Vadakara (Cohort III) and Sr. Lucy Joseph (Cohort X) from India.

Allyson Zacharoff (Cohort VI) was also awarded a project grant by the JPII Center for Interreligious Dialogue in 2020. Her project was to bring together 8 Christian seminarians and 8 Jewish rabbinical students for a mini weekend interfaith conference in Philadelphia where the group would have had the opportunity to practice interfaith dialogue, pray together, share meals, enjoy the city, and learn how to bring this work back to their communities. However, in 2020 this was clearly not possible.

Instead, Allyson managed to organize an online multifaith panel on resilience, a topic that is so relevant to our times. A rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College near Philadelphia, Allyson got on board three speakers who guided a deep and engaging reflection on the topic from a Jewish, Muslim and Christian perspective: Rabbanit Dasi Fruchter, Founder and Spiritual Leader of South Philadelphia Shtiebel; Dr. Celene Ibrahim, Author and Scholar; Rev. Mahogany S. Thomas, Executive Minister at Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ.

“I consider one of the greatest achievements of this project to be the significant impact it had on those present at the event, as indicated by the active participation in our question and answer session, as well as positive comments made during and after the event. Also, an amazing achievement was that an estimated 23,600 saw the advertisement for the event on Facebook. This means that people across Europe and North America saw something with the word 'multifaith’ in it in the two weeks leading up to the event, which feels like an incredible achievement in terms of raising general awareness of the field of multifaith dialogue,” Allyson commented at the end of her project.

“I also consider a great achievement of the project the fact that our panel was comprised of all women religious leaders who are early in their careers, and who were discussing an important topic other than gender equality, which might otherwise be expected from an all-female panel,” she added. “This helps show the power of female voices in religious leadership and the enormous contributions we can make on a great diversity of topics.”

We are truly inspired by the creativity, dedication and commitment to dialogue of our JPII Leaders around the world who work to be a supporting presence in their communities while offering tools to face the everyday challenges.