by Professor Dimitri Spivak, UNESCO Chair on Comparative Studies of Spiritual Traditions, their Specific Cultures and Interreligious Dialogue

The pandemic has considerably aggravated everyday living conditions of the majority of target groups of the intercultural dialogue, especially migrant workers, ethnoreligious minorities and aged people, to name but a few.

The main challenge for us consists in withholding lofty UNESCO ideas and attitudes, and in adapting them to the new realities, shaped by both the global pandemic, and by uncoordinated local efforts to withstand it.

Local communities try to adapt their norms and standards to the realities of the pandemic. For instance, in Russian communities of Orthodox Christians, they had to alter their custom of gathering at churches and cathedrals on Easter night, to be present at the evening liturgy, followed by solemn night procession around the church. This time (19 April), only clergy was present at the churches, while all members of local communities followed the service online.

Members of the Islamic communities in Russia have similar problems with the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan on 24 April.

In both cases, responsible actions of the religious leaders played a decisive role in the decision of the majority of religious people to stay at home. However, we took part in the corresponding discussions, mostly by means of mass media and social networks, in supporting the religious authorities by the opinion of the academic community.

To view a video of a recently televised discussion on this issue, please click here

We would definitely have to rely heavily upon distant discussions and presentations, in order to deal with the new challenges. The inevitable economic crisis would sever social ties and aggravate societal life. Practicing humanism, observing human rights, withholding standards of intercultural communication would continue being a challenge for us all in the times of the “new world disorder”. Elaboration of the new UNESCO strategy could give a real impetus to our work.