The European Religious Leader’s President, Dr. Thomas Wipf, attended an online event titled “Religions in a Pandemic World”, held by the Bulgarian Forum for Interreligious Dialogue. Here he was able to participate in an important and timely discussion, reflecting on the current crisis situation, faced by the entire world. Find an excerpt of his message below:

“I am pleased to have had the opportunity to offer greetings on behalf of the ECRL/ RfP-Europe. I really enjoyed your online scientific conference “Religions in a Pandemic World”, with it’s highly fascinating contributions. It is an important topic because there is an opportunity to think about lessons learned in the current crisis situation. After all, all areas of society and individual lives are affected in a way as rarely in human history before.

While thinking about the pandemic, its affects, consequences and opportunities, four observations come to my mind that I would like to mention briefly:

What we have experienced together and what we continue to experience shows us the vulnerability of people and our existence as human beings.

Suddenly we are pushed to the limits of feasibility that modern Homo sapiens often forget.

The pandemic also leads us to philosophical and religious questions about « conditio humana » with no quick answers.

A second observation is the solidarity, which we have probably all experienced. We hear from everywhere how people have stood by one another, from voluntary neighbourly service to the almost superhuman commitment of professional and voluntary employees in the entire medical field, in research and in many other areas.

A functioning civil society and members of religious communities also played an important role. According to my observation, Religious Leaders were not the most important actors, but – by the way I might be too protestant – a lot of motivated people at the grassroots and in pastoral care, which also got a new meaning.

It showed what we should already know, that when it comes to the basic simple questions of human life, solidarity, charity, practical help; all differences between religions that otherwise concern us so much, but also all differences between people of different world views or political interests recede and we are only dependent upon each other.

A third experience: There were – unfortunately – voices from religious circles that constructed a contradiction between science and faith. It is not the place to go into here. But the ECRL/RfP-Europe in its Multifaith Statement on the Pandemic in April – you can read it on our website – made it very clear that science and belief are not contradictory, but that both help people to survive.

Finally, this also includes the experience that where the citizens can trust their politicians and the state and vice versa, the politicians trust their citizens and are honest, the challenges of the pandemic can be overcome together.

The cooperation between religion and diplomacy, for which Ambassador Berresheim of the German Foreign Department is a European pioneer, is also becoming increasingly important in this regard.

Thank you for asking me to offer you these greetings of appreciation. I look forward to further cooperation between the Bulgarian Forum for Interreligious Dialogue and Partnership and ECRL / RfP-Europe and I wish you an interesting and inspiring conference.”

Rev Thomas Wipf

President ECRL