Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, and four leading imams have called for a day of prayer today, Tuesday 23 March, a national day of reflection marking the anniversary of the first national lockdown for the coronavirus pandemic.
Ibrahim Mogra, Muhammad Shahid Raza, Moulana Ali Raza Rizvi, Moulana Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi and Cardinal Nichols have been conducting a dialogue for over five years and in 2017 met with Pope Francis as a powerful symbol of hope and enhanced collaboration between Christianity and Islam.
In their joint statement, they come together to pray:
“For all who live by faith in God, reflection and prayer always go hand in hand. Reflection informs prayer. Prayer opens out life to its true horizon.”
This call follows Pope Francis’ recent visit to Iraq, during which he met with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Najaf and also faith leaders in Ur, the birthplace of Abraham. In that meeting, Pope Francis urged Muslim and Christian leaders to work together for peace and unity.
“This is true religiosity: to worship God and to love our neighbour,” said Pope Francis in Ur on 6 March 2021.
We welcome the designation of Tuesday 23 March as a National Day of Reflection to mark the anniversary of the first national ‘lockdown’ with a minute’s silence at midday and doorstep vigils of light at 8pm.
We ask you all to make this not only a Day of Reflection but also a Day of Prayer. In reflection we ponder on all that has taken place; in prayer we bring this to our Creator. For all who live by faith in God, reflection and prayer always go hand in hand. Prayer completes reflection. Reflection informs prayer. Prayer opens our life to its true horizon. Without prayer we live in a foreshortened world and are more easily swamped by its clamour and tragedy. Throughout this difficult year, so many have been inspired by prayer, so much effort sustained in prayer, in every place. So let’s make 23 March truly a day of prayer.
There is so much on which to reflect and include in our prayer.
We reflect in sorrow on all those who have died, whether family members, friends or unknown to us personally. We pray for them, asking God to welcome them into their heavenly home, the destiny for which God first gave the gift of life.
We reflect with compassion on all those who have suffered during this last year, whether through illness, or stress, or family tensions, or financial disaster. We pray for their ongoing resilience, courage and capacity to forgive.
We reflect with thanksgiving for the generosity, inventiveness, self-sacrifice and determination shown by so many in this most difficult of times. We pray for them, thanking God for their giftedness and dedication, whether they are scientists, politicians, health workers, public servants of very kind, community leaders or steadfast family members and friends who show such love and compassion.
We reflect in hope that as the pandemic is controlled and we can open up again, we will gather in the lessons we have learned and build our society into a better shape, more compassionate, less marked by inequalities, more responsive to needs and deprivation. We pray for God to guide and strengthen us in this endeavour, whether we are focussing on overcoming family breakdowns, or economic recovery, or building political consensus.
May today be a great day of prayer that this pandemic comes to an end and that God’s love and mercy will carry us forward to a new and better life, both here and in the world to come.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Muhammad Shahid Raza
Moulana Ali Raza Rizvi
Moulana Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi