Over 50 representatives of different religious communities from Assam on May 28 made a joint appeal to fight stigma and discrimination, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, towards members of healthcare and frontline services, people with symptoms, those who have been quarantined, and especially those, who are returning to Assam from other states.

In a webinar organized by Sphere India, in collaboration with UNICEF and WHO, faith leaders deliberated on their role in the COVID-19 response.

Kausar Hilaly, Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Department of Social Welfare, in his address highlighted the importance of social cohesion and right messaging in the time of this pandemic. “There is fear and anxiety among communities regarding the virus, however, that is also stemming from misinformation and rumours being spread through different mediums. Faith leaders play a crucial role, especially since 99 per cent of people in India associate with one religion or another,” he said.

The meeting was the first of two, organized to sensitize leaders and deliberate on concrete actions that need to be taken to address social issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mufti Nasihur Rehman, popularly known as Swachh Maulana; Satra leader Pranav Pran Gowasmi, Brahmakumari Rajyog Seva Kendra’s Sister Sonam, Goldsmith, IAG Convenor, were among the speakers during the webinar.

They highlighted the role of faith leaders in support of government response, and specific actions that could be taken to combat stigma including counselling, support to frontline workers, raising awareness on government advisories, among others.

During the meeting, UNICEF Chief of Field Office, Assam, Madhulika Jonathan emphasised on the need to also create space to deliberate on the role of faith leaders in addressing the secondary impact of the COVID-19 crisis on vulnerable communities, especially women and children.

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