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11 May 2020

West Midlands faith groups work to tackle Covid-19

West Midlands religious groups are bringing together their communities to help the region get through the current pandemic.

Vital voluntary services have been set up by the wide range of faiths in the West Midlands to help anyone affected by the current crisis, regardless of belief. Their good work is being supported by West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) which has been bringing together faith groups since the pandemic took hold by holding weekly online meetings chaired by the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street.

The virtual round table gives faith leaders updates on Covid-19 from local authorities and public health experts, and on funding such as the Government’s support for the charity sector. The forum also gives them the opportunity to grill each week’s panel about issues that directly affect their communities.

The Mayor said:

“In this current situation the importance of faith to many people in the West Midlands has been highlighted.

“Not only can personal faith bring comfort to individuals in dark times, faith groups can provide practical help and support by offering crucial services to their communities regardless of their neighbours’ beliefs.”

So far 272 people have dialled in to listen to the briefings on the COVID-19 crisis, which have now been extended to continue until the end of May.

Some of the faith-based projects being highlighted on the WMCA website include the Sikh Helpline based in Oldbury which offers free telephone counselling to anyone, regardless of belief. The helpline has seen an increased number of calls from victims of domestic abuse, substance addiction, and those affected by depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

A lifeline to the most vulnerable during the crisis is being offered by the Solihull Muslim Network which has delivered hundreds of food parcels. Recipients include refugees, victims of domestic abuse and elderly residents isolated by the outbreak.

In Birmingham, St Peters Church in Hall Green is coordinating support for those self-isolating in their community. Vicar, Revd. Martin Stephenson and his team have set up a WhatsApp group to provide alerts of needs and offers of help and support. Volunteers from the local community are helping to deliver essential supplies and run errands to those in need, and they are supporting the food bank centre at the Church of the Ascension, Hall Green.

The faith groups have been spreading the word within their communities about government social distancing and isolation guidance. At the beginning of April they issued a joint statement marking their solidarity in the face of the pandemic and have promoted alternative forms of worship and celebration as religious buildings are currently closed.

Last month the WMCA co-ordinated the #VirtualVaisakhiWM campaign, encouraging individual households to share images celebrating the Sikh festival, Vaisakhi, on social media, and on Friday 15 May the WMCA, Islamic Relief and the Ramadan Tent Project are planning to hold an Iftar, the Ramadan fast breaking meal, virtually.

Amrick Singh Ubhi co-chair of the Mayor’s Faith Steering Group said:

“The faith group meetings are proving to be an essential channel to communicate with a wide range of diverse communities in this current crisis.

“With almost 300 attendees so far their popularity illustrates how faith communities want to come together in times of crisis to help our region cope with, and recover from, this pandemic. We are seeing some amazing collaboration and humanitarian work going on. We look forward to the collaboration across all communities and agencies continuing post-pandemic times to create even more productive relations.”

The weekly briefings are held at 5.30pm on Wednesdays and members of faith communities can listen in by using the link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5851449557036121611

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