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As the whole of the country continues to make huge efforts and sacrifices to delay the spread of the coronavirus, religious communities have been required to adjust and make alternative arrangements – affecting their day-to-day lives and religious practices.
In the days ahead we will see the end of Ramadan for our Muslim communities and staff, and with it, the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr. As with the month of Ramadan, the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr will also be very different this year.
Eid-ul-Fitr is the celebration where families usually come together to celebrate the month’s achievement. It traditionally sees big gatherings, meals, parties, and visiting family and friends. However, we remain in a critical period where government guidelines on social distancing should be followed.
Mosques will remain closed and people should refrain from visiting or inviting friends and family to their homes. Instead, they should speak to them by phone or video-calling.
The toll of the virus has been crushing for so many in our communities, including those from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds, who have been hit particularly hard by the virus. For many Muslim families across the country, Eid-ul-Fitr this year will therefore be more a time of reflection than celebration.
Our heroic NHS staff on the frontline have also paid a dear price – with BME staff being over-represented in the ultimate sacrifices that we are seeing. For those that have gone before us, and those that are still with us today, working in the NHS is more of a vocation than an occupation.
The work of our remarkable NHS staff is underpinned with the core values of dignity, compassion and humanity. Our NHS is indeed the most powerful and visible expression of those values. There is no doubt that, over the last few months, we have experienced the NHS in the most vivid and personal way.
During this time of prayer and reflection for so many of us, I, like others, will give thanks to our extraordinary NHS staff. Thanks for their skill, dedication and their bravery at times of exceptional challenge – such as that which we are all experiencing at this moment in time.
The virus has shone the brightest of lights on the inequalities we see in our society: in our communities and workplaces, and yes, within our NHS.
We are making progress on closing the inequality gaps; but to be proud of our health service, is not to be blind to its imperfections. At the same time, we must be honest about our achievements whilst holding ourselves to an ever-higher standard.
Just as our Muslim communities transition from Ramadan to Eid-ul-Fitr, we will all soon transition into the new way of life; as we do so, we should hold firm to the belief that we will all be worse off, whatever our background, unless equity and compassion are at the heart of our shared future.