Religious leaders of all faiths are being urged by the UN Secretary-General to join forces and work for peace around the world and focus on the common battle to defeat COVID-19.

António Gutteres made the call in a special appeal issued on Saturday, and at a time when Christians are celebrating Easter, Jews are marking Passover, and Muslims will soon begin the holy month of Ramadan.

“We have always known these occasions to be moments of community. Of families coming together. Of hugs and handshakes and the gathering of humanity. But this is a time like no other”, he said.

Globally, there have been more than 1.6 million cases of COVID-19 and nearly 100,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The new coronavirus disease has ushered in what the UN chief described as “a strange, surreal world”. Streets are silent, storefronts are shuttered and places of worship are empty in efforts to contain its spread.

It is also a world where “we are worried about our loved ones who are equally worried about us”, he continued, before wondering “how do we celebrate at a time like this?”

In the spirit of this holy period, the Secretary-General encouraged people everywhere to use this as a time for reflection, remembrance and renewal.

“As we reflect, let us spare a special thought for heroic health workers on the frontlines battling this awful virus – and for all those working to keep our cities and towns going”, said Mr. Guterres.

This is also time to remember “the most vulnerable of the vulnerable around the world”: people in war zones, refugee camps, slums and other areas least equipped to fight the virus.

“And let us renew our faith in one another and draw strength from the good that is gathering in troubled times as communities of diverse faiths and ethical traditions unite to care for one another”, he added.

“Together, we can and will defeat this virus – with cooperation, solidarity, and faith in our common humanity”.

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