The COVID-19 pandemic meant many of us made dramatic changes to our way of life. But how did the pandemic affect people’s ways of practising their religion when many places of worship were forced to close? These resources will help you and your students understand how religious communities around the world adapted to the pandemic and reflect on what this shows us about religion in the 21st century. 

Diwali during lockdown

Diwali with a difference under Covid-19

by Sodaba Haidare, published by BBC News, (2020)

This video looks at Diwali, a time of great joy and communal celebration to Hindus, often referred to as the festival of lights, when Hindus remember the story of Rama and Sita and their escape from the demon Ravana. In the video, we meet three Hindu women from around the world: Chitra from India, Dipti from England and Kavitha from South Africa. Questions to raise with your students include: ‘How has the pandemic affected their experience of Diwali?’ and ‘What are the positives and negatives they each discuss?’ 

Langar during lockdown

Coronavirus: The Sikh community kitchen feeding thousands

by Jim Reed, published by BBC News, (2020)

This is an interesting BBC News video looking at a practical response to the pandemic from the Sikh community in Slough. Though their gurdwara (place of worship) was forced to close, the community found a way to continue offering langar (communal food) to those in need. You could ask your students to consider which they think is the most important: worship through prayer or worship through charity and service to others. 

Ramadan during lockdown

I Was Dreading Ramadan In Lockdown. But There Have Been Unexpected Perks

by Aya Bdaiwi, published by The Huffington Post, (2020)

Ramadan is the holiest of months for Muslims. For many Muslims, it is a time of particular religious devotion involving fasting (sawm) and a renewed commitment to prayer. Muslims break their daily fast with a special meal called Iftar - which can often be a social event involving local friends and families. In this article, Aya, a Muslim from London, describes the challenges of marking Ramadan during lockdown. Interestingly, she explores how technology enabled her to connect with friends and create new ways of practising her faith. 

Passover during lockdown

Coronavirus: Chief rabbi says Passover in lockdown will be ‘challenging’

by Thomas Mackintosh, published by BBC News, (2020)

Passover is one of the most important religious events for Jews, commemorating the exodus from Egypt when Moses led his people from slavery to the Promised Land. In this interview, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis describes Passover during lockdown as ‘particularly challenging’. You could ask your students to consider what specific challenges they think he is referring to. For example, how might some Jews see parallels between the original Passover story and their experience of the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Monasteries during lockdown

Covid sweeps India's Buddhist monasteries

by Anshul Verma, published by BBC News, (2021)

This is an interesting resource for your students to extend their learning about Buddhist monastic life. The video raises questions about how the pandemic particularly affected close-knit religious communities. With the monks studying, eating and meditating together, outbreaks of COVID-19 were hard to contain. Questions to raise with your students could include: ‘How would monks gather alms when the monastery was on lockdown?’ and ‘How might Buddhist understandings of the Four Noble Truths help them to deal with the impact of the pandemic?’ 

Communion during lockdown

Will the Coronavirus be the End of the Communion Cup?

by Elizabeth Barber, published by The New Yorker,, (2020)

This is an interesting article on how COVID-19 impacted centuries-old religious practice. As communion is a ritual that brings Christians together in worship, COVID-19 restrictions clearly have implications. As part of a study on Holy Communion, your students could consider whether religions should now change their traditions around sharing a cup to drink from. You could ask your students why some Christians found being unable to receive communion (in either form) during the pandemic particularly difficult. 

Further Materials

The Covid Pandemic and the World’s Religions by George D. Chryssides and Dan Cohn-Sherbok, published by Bloomsbury, (2003) Find this book
For some people, religious leaders might be most effective at communicating the importance of COVID-19 vaccination by Filip Viskupič and David Wiltse, published by The Conversation, (2022) Read this article
Pilgrimages could be the next post-COVID travel trend by Kerry Walker, published by National Geographic, (2021) Read this article
Neil McKain is a Head of Religious Studies with over fifteen years teaching experience across both the state and independent sectors. He graduated in Theology and RS from the University of Leeds and holds an MA in Philosophy and Religion from the University of London. Neil has served on the executive board of the National Association for Teachers of RE (NATRE) for the last nine years and is a published author of student textbooks as well as articles on RE more generally. He is currently the vice chair of Humanists UK.

Text © Neil McKain, 2023.