The goal of the vigil was not only to draw together in prayer but to express to government leaders from the US and other countries that this is an urgent moral issue as well as a practical one. The vigil called into light the injustices of the pandemic: People living in poverty and those who are most disadvantaged due to place and race bear the greatest burden.
Those gathered at the vigil also plan to continue calling for President Biden and members of the US Congress to lead the world in producing the billions of vaccine doses needed within one year to end the pandemic.
Rev. Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, interim deputy general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and director of its Faith and Order Commission, contributed a video prayer on behalf of the WCC. “O Lord, grant the decision-makers and those in authority the wisdom to realise that no one is safe until everyone is safe,” he prayed. “We pray that countries and companies will, in the spirit of saving humanity, share the know-how and technology and make resources available for vaccine production, storage and distribution so that the vaccines can be manufactured widely to reach even the remotest regions of the world.”
Rev. Dr Angelique Walker-Smith, from the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. and a member of the WCC central committee, said she was honored to serve with a globally diverse coalition of faith leaders and their communities to call on all nations, and especially wealthy nations, to take extraordinary measures to increase vaccine production and end the pandemic.
“Vaccines in low- and middle-income countries are virtually non-existent. No one is safe until everyone is safe! We are all connected. This is a value of our faith and our common humanity,” said Walker-Smith, who also serves as senior associate for Pan African and Orthodox Church Engagement at Bread for the World (USA) and convener of the WCC Pan African Women's Ecumenical Empowerment Network.
“While donations of vaccines are helpful, the solution is more production of vaccines. These should be developed globally, not just in a few regions of the world. Nations throughout the world urgently need billions of vaccines. Let us pray and act to get this done!” she said.
Dr Mathews George Chunakara, general secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia, said: “Unless the pandemic is over for all of us, it is not over for any one of us.”
Those attending the vigil also called on the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property rights for vaccine manufacturing in order to enable more countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines domestically. The vigil was scheduled to coincide with meetings of the World Trade Organization in Geneva this week.
“In a global emergency, profits and politics need to be set aside for the good of the people,” said Don McCrabb, executive director of the United States Catholic Mission Association.
“The coronavirus is not the Titanic, everyone can live — there are more than enough lifeboats for every person on the planet.”
The program also included a remembrance of loved ones and the more than 4 million lives lost to COVID-19.