In March 2020, the global media focused intensively on questions surrounding the emergent COVID-19 pandemic and governments worldwide began to issue calls for lockdown measures to slow the spread of the new virus. Many religious groups began to craft guidance documents on adapting religious gatherings and practices to comply with public health recommendations. Others made headlines for “super spreader” events. A rapidly mobilized consultation was convened on March 18, 2020, to explore faith engagement in the pandemic. The central question was how will religious communities contribute—both positively and less so—to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic? From this meeting, the Religious Responses to COVID-19 project emerged, a joint collaboration between the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, the World Faiths Development Dialogue, and the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities.
One of the first activities of the project was to start compiling every resource we collectively found that related to religion or faith and COVID-19. These resources were initially cataloged in a public Google Document and loosely divided into global, country-level, and local responses. The initial effort was to try to reach fairly comprehensive coverage of English language sources. Additional categories such as “Long-term reflections,” “Emerging issues of importance,” and “Faith-inspired organizations’ responses” were added as it became clear that the pandemic was an ongoing, long-term crisis. Efforts to collect resources began to redirect towards coverage of sources of potential relevance to global health and international development and to a diversification of sources from a wider range of languages. Sources are now collected on a weekly basis by the team, emerging from the organizers’ various networks, Google Alert/Google Scholar searches, and sources that are submitted by repository users. As such, the repository does not claim to be comprehensive and the methodology employed so far has its limitations due to the small size of the team working on the project and limited time available each week to review all possible new sources. However, the sustained maintenance of the repository over time and the regular weekly updates mean that the repository remains one of the most widespread sources for information on religious responses to COVID-19 that we are aware of.
By the end of 2020, as the document grew to over 100 pages of links to resources about faith and COVID-19, it became clear that the Google Document was growing larger than was useful to be user-friendly. Discussions then began about how to catalog the hundreds of resources that had been collected to date. In the second half of 2021, the repository was sorted into newly defined categories and transferred onto this website for ease of use and searchability.
(Photo from Unsplash.com)
How to understand the repository categories
A central aim of this repository is to make the collected resources more easily searchable, so that researchers, policymakers, and practitioners who are looking for sources on a particular topic can readily utilize this site and its resources. To that end, each source has been coded using the following guidelines:
Title – follows spacing/capitalization of the title as it appears on the resource.
Source – the name of the news source, institution, etc. from which the source is published.
Date – date of publication of the source. Exact date is preferred, with month and year the next preferred, and year only if no other information is available. For the purposes of this repository, sources without a full publication date are coded as the last day of the month if month is available, the last day of the year if year is available, or as the date the resource was added to the repository if no other information is available.
Type of Resource
Acts/Bills – national level laws/legislation.
Blog Post – a post on a blog, this includes posts on The Conversation (academic publishing website) and the Berkley Forum.
Book – a full book, which can include volumes with chapters from different authors, but a single chapter from a book is coded in the next category.
Book Chapter – a chapter from a book, not the whole book (see Book category above).
Court Cases/Legal Documents – includes fatwas, rabbinic decisions, etc.
Database/Repository – another database (data set) or repository of gathered materials with information on COVID-19.
Guidance Document – this is any document, published by anyone, that asserts it provides guidance material on a topic related to COVID-19. It will frequently have “guides” or “guidance” in the title.
Journal Article – only articles published by academic journals, which can include letters or commentary pieces from academic journals.
Newspaper Article – anything published by a journalistic media outlet, which will commonly include online-only articles.
Op-Ed – any post that is defined as an opinion piece, can be from a news source or an organizational website. Also includes interviews.
Podcast – a podcast recording.
Policy Brief – this is similar to a research report but is different from them in a few distinct ways: 1) policy briefs are usually short, 1-5 pages, 2) they might be called “policy brief” or “briefing” in their title, 3) it is based on a longer report, 4) it condenses and summarizes the material of the longer report for a policy audience. When in doubt, the document was coded as a research report.
Radio Segment – broadcast on a radio station.
Research Report – this is a report that has usually been published by an NGO, UN agency, think tank, government, or another institution, but is not published through a journal or formal publisher (e.g., Harper Collins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Taylor & Francis).
Statement – an official statement, announcement, or pronouncement from an institution on their institutional position on a topic related to COVID-19.
Video – a visual recording, which includes webinar videos.
Region – uses the United Nations geoscheme.
Eastern Europe – includes Northern Asia
Australia and New Zealand
Worldwide/Not Specified – used when there is no geographical focus mentioned at all
Country – if specified. No predefined list; added as specified in the text of the resource. Formatted according to this list from Encyclopedia Britannica, but ignoring the commas (e.g. write “South Sudan” rather than “Sudan, South”).
Language – primary language the resource is published in.
Religion – this refers to the content of the resource and answers the questions “what religion does the resource mainly refer to?” (It does not refer to the author or institution that wrote the article, although it may often be the same as the content). A category was assigned following the list below. (This is a hybrid of lists used by Pew Research Center.)
Traditional/Indigenous – also includes ancestral, animist, and pagan.
Interfaith – this refers to initiatives that are purposefully trying to bring together different religions to work together. If there is an article that simply reports on a large number of religions, but the religions are acting separately, it is not catalogued as interfaith.
All/Not Specified – when no particular faith is mentioned, but the source is still clearly about or for faith actors. Can include when all faiths are generically mentioned (e.g. general use of the term “faith leaders” without specific mention of tradition).
Sub-Religion – further details as defined by the article itself, with no predefined categories. For example, “Evangelical,” “Protestant,” “Orthodox,” “Sunni,” “Druze,” etc. While we’ve tried to clean this to some extent, because we’ve allowed the religious subsections to arise from the terms and definitions used in the sources themselves, please note that there may be an overlap of terms (e.g. orthodox) at times so we recommend also searching for similar categories found in the sub-religion dropdown menu.
Thematic Areas (Tags) – arising from the major themes noted in the articles themselves, these thematic areas help group information according to themes that are particularly relevant to global health and international development professionals. The themes are not comprehensive of all themes mentioned in every article, but are instead intended to be used as a guide to highlight key content.
Adapting Religious Rituals/Gatherings – changes to religious gatherings, rituals, and practices implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Advocacy – advocating for specific groups.
Bioethics – medical ethics.
Conflict – warring parties in conflict.
Digital Technologies – specific use of digital technologies by faith communities as a response to the pandemic.
Discrimination – article refers to discrimination, stigmatization, or scapegoating a group related to COVID-19.
Education – including school, missing school, going back to school, education outside of school, adult education.
Finances – funding, donations, including material donations such as a clothing drive.
Food Security – nutrition, anything about food in the pandemic, from food kitchens to food shortages.
FoRB – “Freedom of Religion or Belief,” the specific human right on religion (https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomReligion/Pages/Standards.aspx). Might also be referred to as religious freedom.
Gender – includes gender equality, gender based violence, domestic violence, violence against women and girls, women’s rights, feminism.
Government Relations – discusses the relationship between governments and religious institutions. For example, a podcast that discusses the government paying pastor salaries, or an article about faith groups working with government actors to provide COVID-19 vaccines.
Health Messaging – disseminating public health information to the public.
Human Rights – anything that specifically refers to one of the human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or specifically states that it is a human rights issue. It must specifically refer to human rights – if it is only vaguely connected to one of the human rights in the UDHR but does not state it as a human rights issue, then it was not coded under this category.
Inequities – racial and ethnic inequities.
Mandates – official orders related to COVID-19 (vaccines, social distancing, etc.).
Mental Health – includes spiritual/pastoral support from religious groups.
Misinformation – infodemic, conspiracy theories.
Religious Gatherings – including superspreader events at religious mass gatherings. If it is specifically about adapting religious gatherings because of COVID-19, was instead coded use the category “Adapting Religious Rituals/Gatherings.”
Shelter – housing, settlements, etc.
Theology – the resource either uses or refers to religious teachings, theologies, or sacred texts.
Refugees and Migrants
Religious Infrastructure – the resource refers to the use of religious buildings as part of the COVID-19 response.
Volunteers – the resource refers to the involvement of volunteers or activists.
Youth and Children
WASH – water, sanitation, and hygiene.
We welcome corrections to our coding of resources. If you notice that a resource has been coded inconsistently with the categories listed above, please bring it to our attention using the Resource Corrections Form.
We are grateful for the support of The International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD) and Data Science for Sustainable Development (DSSD). We are also deeply appreciative of the many interns, contractors, and staff members from the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, the World Faiths Development Dialogue, and the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities who contributed countless hours to the production of this resource repository.