Unlike some religious traditions elsewhere, Philippine Catholicism readily recognized the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic as described by medical science and public health protocols. Given this general perspective, it promoted communal worship online and inclusive feeding programs – practices integral to Catholicism and rooted in the local religious ethos. The defining characteristics of these practices during the pandemic invite critical inquiry on its theological foundations. The first provides greater accessibility to the ekklesia and interrogates therefore the traditional notion of Catholic belonging and identity. The second exemplifies a more inclusive framework for social ministry on account of the wide diversity of roles among those involved and its integration of charitable services with structural change. Thus both practices challenge Philippine Catholicism to become a people of greater hospitality.
This paper highlights Muhammadiyah’s religious and social engagement and praxis in dealing with the pandemic in Indonesia. As Indonesia’s largest modernist Islamic organisation with approximately 30 million members, Muhammadiyah has been challenged to prove its progressive understanding of Islam during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, the organisation has issued religious fatwas and policies to adjust their worship and social activities during the outbreak. However, conservative elements oppose these fatwas and policies by stating that Covid-19 is a global conspiracy to destroy Islam. Through its networks and resources, Muhammadiyah keeps issuing fatwas to boost public awareness of the virus’s dangers and mortality and protect and save lives. Thus, the paper seeks to discover why and how the organisation adopts new practices in their rituals and new sites of worship and, at the same time, fights against religious ignorance and hoaxes around the Covid-19. It also seeks to determine how Muhammadiyah mobilises its networks and resources to deal with the outbreak and opposition. Finally, it examines the organisation’s relationship with state and non-state actors, nationally and internationally, to face the impacts of such a contagious virus. Drawing upon Muhammadiyah’s official fatwas, policies, statements, and socio-religious praxis, this paper finds that Muhammadiyah’s social mission, caring, and engagement during the pandemic are based on its progressive and rational belief system.
Theology and philosophy are strange bedfellows: although they share many similar interests and constantly influence each other, their relationship is fraught with suspicion or even enmity. This problem is especially acute for those who want to harmonize their commitment to sola Scriptura with the use of philosophy in their theology. Drawing insights from Herman Bavinck’s Neo-Calvinist worldview, I argue that this apparent competition is mainly caused by the failure to recognize the organic unity between both disciplines. Without theology, all disciplines would be meaningless, but without philosophy, all disciplines would be unintelligible. Portraying the harmony between theology and philosophy depends on the success of locating the difference and relationship between the universality of theology and that of philosophy. Further, the organicity that suffuses all things and affirms the primacy of special revelation reflects the Neo-Calvinist belief in both sola scriptura and the sacredness of all vocations.
This paper explores responses to COVID-19 by the Buddhist organisation Soka Gakkai in Japan. Sōka means ‘value-creation’, but what kind of ‘value’ was created amidst a global pandemic? So-called ‘new religions’ in the context of Japan are typically presumed to embody a ‘flight from the human world’ into the exotic and remote. SG’s response, however, encouraged people to stay very much within a ‘human-bound world’. How did SG differ compared to other popular responses in Japan that drew on yōkai (or ‘spirits’) for comfort in defeating the soon objectified virus ‘monster’? SG may be well-built for responding to disaster in its extensive grassroots networks and its daily newspaper to provide information. Responding with a renewed focus on study, chanting and outreach also highlights, however, how the meaning of ‘hope’ and ‘well-being’ were generated by internal change while structurally working to realise the SDG s as part of more long-term solutions.
The introduction to this special issue considers the interdisciplinary study of religious sentiments, religious care and social actions during the COVID-19 outbreak in South-, East- and Southeast Asia. Our approach in terms of nodes and polarisation allows one to visualise a bundle of religious and secular actors and interests, as well as original strategies and actions, in time of pandemic, which sometimes challenge local regimes of truth and authority. In many cases, faith-based NGO s have been complementing the State, activating their powerful channels of mission in urban and rural areas, under the guise of combating COVID-19 crisis. The studies presented here examine several Asian religious actors during this period of COVID-19 crisis; and the ways in which their creative digitalised measures of worship, protection and healing, and their participation in urgent public health and care provisions, have given them the opportunity to renegotiate their relationships with States and societies.