During the first webinar, on 10 June, Dr Manoj Kurian, coordinator of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, served as a moderator. The second webinar in the series will take place 17 June.
In the first webinar, speakers explored some of the challenges and barriers to vaccine uptake within a faith context and highlighted examples from different faith traditions where faith actors have led on global and national action to promote COVID-19 vaccine uptake and overcome vaccine hesitancy.
Kurian said the speakers provided both national and local insights into the very deep influence faith communities have in relation to COVID-19 vaccines.
“This is the first lesson: that we have to listen and understand the values” from the grassroots, Kurian reflected. “You are strengthening the faith communities to be centers for vaccination.”
In a recent statement, the WCC executive committee acknowledged “vaccine hesitancy, fuelled by conspiracy theories, misinformation and misleading theologies” as a problem present “in many societies, including within our own churches.”
In the 10 June webinar, speakers offered tips on how to introduce science into faith communities, how to see vaccine equity as a moral imperative, and how to build social trust to increase vaccine uptake.
They also discussed churches’ role in making accurate information accessible, noting that faith-based organizations have long been on the frontlines of public health services and, at the church level, religious leaders are highly influential in building trust and hope with regard to vaccine equity and justice. This influence becomes even stronger with interfaith and inter-religious collaboration, noted the speakers, who also discussed ways to cultivate constructive dialogue, as well as leverage the intersection between scripture and science.