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Passover, Easter and Ramadan: Worship in a time of lockdown

At a time of lockdown to fight the spread of Covid-19, many churches are broadcasting mass on social media.
At a time of lockdown to fight the spread of Covid-19, many churches are broadcasting mass on social media. © FRANCE 24

For the faithful of the three main monotheistic religions, the spring of 2020 will be one to remember. In France, like in many other countries, strict lockdown policies mean synagogues, churches and mosques are off-limits. As they celebrate Passover, Easter or Ramadan, religious leaders are now often relying heavily on social media to maintain a spiritual link with their congregations. Our team reports.

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Traditionally, Jewish family and friends come together for the Seder, the ceremonial Passover dinner that celebrates the Jews' journey from slavery to freedom in ancient Egypt. But large family gatherings are off the cards this year amid the lockdown.

Serge Behaïm’s synagogue, located in Paris's 11th arrondissement (district), has been closed since March 15. Ahead of Passover, which began on April 8, he told us of his sadness at the festival being disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. "Instead of being an evening of joy, it will be an evening of tears, an evening of sorrow," he said.

For religious leaders, finding ways to maintain links with their communities is a priority in these strange times. So social networks are coming to the fore. Hassan Younès, the imam of a mosque in Beauvais, north of Paris, has taken to using Facebook Live to preach to his congregation. He also uses his Facebook page to respond to questions from congregants.

"These days, some Muslims feel they’ve lost their point of reference. So they need someone to help guide them, both psychologically and spiritually. And an imam needs to keep performing that function throughout the week," he explained. 

In the run-up to Ramadan, which begins on April 23, the head of another mosque says he's confident his community will rely even more on social networks. "We've had online social gatherings and we'll do the same when people break fast during Ramadan," Hamadi Hammami told us.

For Christians, Holy Week – the week before Easter – is also taking place in exceptional circumstances. Eric, a parishioner, is a fan of the new online mass recorded at his now-empty church in Paris. "It makes me very emotional," he told us.

Across France, priests are holding prayer groups via video link. In these times of self-isolation and social distancing, religions are finding new ways to keep their congregations connected.

>> Spread of coronavirus forces Jews and Muslims in France to abandon death rites

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