Howard Grace
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24 April, 2020

As I approach my eightieth birthday, my wife Maria and I are self-isolating due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Having three of the ‘at risk’ health issues, I need to be careful not to catch any nasties. We have lovely neighbours, a young couple, he is Polish and she is Brazilian. They happily do our food shopping when they do their own. Other friends also help us. Although there is a really caring spirit generally, I have no idea what their beliefs are in terms of religion or non-religion.

Those who work for the NHS and caring professions are also a really mixed bunch. My observation is that most people are responding to this pandemic out of a basic human instinct, irrespective of their beliefs. The universality of the response is somewhat similar to that towards the Tsunami in 2004.

This week, I joined in the initial IofC International, on-line Zoom meetings and was inspired to be able to have contact with such a variety of friends on different continents, also many people I didn’t know. This also represented a wonderful diversity of people - of nationality, culture, religion and experience of life! I asked myself what it is that brings such an amazing mixture of people together in common cause.

In the Zoom discussion, one person, from a different continent and culture to my own said of IofC, 'We all believe in God.' This may be true from her perspective. But living in Europe, I sense that for most people, the factor behind our solidarity in facing Covid-19 as well as what holds our IofC fellowship together through the decades, lies elsewhere. Rather than being about beliefs, it concerns responding to an innate spirit in our human hearts, wherever we may believe that spirit originates.

As Russian philosopher Grigory Pomerants, the 2008 Caux lecturer, said: 'We do not ask of what belief you are, but of what spirit.' Somehow, for most people, this present pandemic seems to be manifesting that spirit.

Howard Grace is one of the founders of the West Berkshire Peace and Integration Forum. Howard works with IofC and has conducted workshops in hundreds of Sixth Forms around the UK. He is also executive producer of the film Beyond Forgiving.

NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.