Religious leaders unite to urge worshipers to get vaccinated | Social views



Of all the reasons not to get the vaccine, religion shouldn’t be one of them. Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Bahá’ís – name it – they all preach self-sacrifice for the sake of others and the protection of the most vulnerable.

Thus, receiving one or two injections to avoid spreading death to others should not lead anyone in any of the dominant religions to be labeled a sinner or a heretic. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

Respected religious leaders from various religions in the Harrisburg area gathered last week in a webinar hosted by the Harrisburg World Affairs Council to clarify this point. People who care about their family, friends and neighbors will take all necessary precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19. People who practice the love their religion preaches will be vaccinated.

Reverend Roque Santiago gave an eloquent update in two languages. “Es bien important por nosotros como Latinos,” said Reverend Santiago, stressing the importance of vaccination for people in his community.

The Reverend and Mrs. Roque Santiago are prominent religious figures in Harrisburg. They encourage Latinos to get vaccinated.

Reverend Santiago acknowledged that many Latinos may be skeptical or even afraid of the vaccine, having received constant doses of misinformation on social media. But he preached immunization from the pulpit, and he says most members of his bilingual Harrisburg church have followed his advice to protect themselves and their community.

Religious leaders unite to urge worshipers to get vaccinated

Religious leaders from various faith groups participated in an interfaith webinar on September 30 on COVID-19.

Pastors and religious leaders from other groups have echoed Reverend Santiago’s call: don’t let misinformation kill us and those we love. They included some of our region’s most respected religious figures, including the Reverend Dr. Amy Welin, pastor of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church; the Reverend Sandy Strauss, director of advocacy for the Pennsylvania Council of Churches; Rev. Nate Gadsden, pastor of the Imani African Christian Church; Samia Malik of the Islamic Society of Greater Harrisburg; Mark Dunmire with the Baha’i community; Reverend Kris Sledge of Journey Church; Madhubala Parikh, of the Hindu Religious Institute; Reverend Kevin Witt of the United Methodist Church Susquehanna Conference Bishop’s Office and Pastor Russell Goodman of New Branches Online Ministries.

Everyone’s message was the same: religion should not be an excuse for risking killing others or dying yourself.

These religious leaders consider the issue to be so important that they have moved beyond some serious doctrinal differences to unite to promote vaccines, as well as masking and social distancing when they would protect vulnerable people.

A nurse watches monitors in a hospital room

In this file photo from Aug. 17, 2021, Nursing Coordinator Beth Springer examines a patient’s room in a COVID-19 ward at Willis-Knighton Medical Center in Shreveport, Louisiana. A drop in COVID-19 cases in the United States in recent weeks has relieved overwhelmed hospitals, but administrators are bracing for a possible further increase as the cold pushes people inside. (AP Photo / Gerald Herbert, file)PA

All were particularly concerned about the pandemic’s toll on healthcare workers, as well as the emotional trauma suffered by people of all ages. They lamented school closures, business closures and seniors dying alone in nursing homes, all because of COVID-19.

Many of them had to comfort loved ones to mourn those who died after refusing the one thing that could keep them alive. And they know that all of this could be put behind us if more people were vaccinated.

As for these religious leaders and many others, there is no conflict between the medical science that promotes vaccination and their beliefs. Their conflict is with those who do not follow good scientific guidelines. Their conflict is with those who misinterpret their faith and end up hurting others.

Joyce M. Davis is the Outreach and Outreach Editor for PennLive and The Patriot-News. Follow her on Facebook and twitter @byjoycedavis.

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