Hundreds of thousands of people of all faiths are taking to social media to say they will join in worldwide fasting and prayer on Good Friday for relief from the global COVID-19 pandemic.
That momentum for a collective fast is reflected in one new Facebook group that swelled to more than 300,000 members in three days after a global religious leader issued an invitation over the weekend.
The group’s rapid growth, international reach and multifaith makeup was one indication Tuesday of broad interest in the effort to call on divine power this week for help during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am Egyptian and a member of the Coptic Church. I will fast and pray with you. God help us,” one member of the group posted.
Organizers launched the group Saturday after President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called for a global fast while speaking during the faith’s semiannual worldwide conference.
“Let us prayerfully plead for relief from this global pandemic,” President Nelson said on Saturday while speaking to millions of Latter-day Saints, calling on them to join with people of faith from around the world.
“I invite all, including those not of our faith, to fast and pray on Good Friday, April 10, that the present pandemic may be controlled, caregivers protected, the economy strengthened and life normalized.”
Good Friday is a traditional day of fasting for the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics. It is obligatory for those ages 18 to 59. But it is different this year, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said last week.
“The Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday this year has a particular significance because of the terrible pandemic that has stricken the whole world,” the cardinal said, according to America, the Jesuit Review magazine. “Indeed, on the day on which we celebrate the redeeming passion and death of Jesus Christ on the Cross, who like a slain lamb has taken upon himself the suffering and sin of the world, the church raises her voice in prayer to God the Father Almighty for all humanity, and in particular for those who suffer most, while she awaits in faith the joy of the resurrection of her Spouse.”
He issued a declaration for a Good Friday intention — a celebration of the Eucharist for a particular purpose — for the pandemic.
The Good Friday intention prays “for all those who suffer the consequences of this pandemic” and asks God to “look with compassion on the sorrowful condition of your children who suffer because of this pandemic; relieve the pain of the sick; give strength to those who care for them; welcome into your peace those who have died; and, throughout this time of tribulation, grant that we may all find comfort in your merciful love.”
One member of the fasting Facebook group expressed gratitude for the leaders of both the Catholic Church and the Latter-day Saints.
In fact, Pope Francis and President Nelson met together a year ago in the Vatican.
But this Good Friday is shaping up to be an even broader day of fasting and prayer across the world.
The “Worldwide Fast April 10” Facebook group includes Catholics, Latter-day Saints, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, evangelical Christians, Wiccans, atheists and more on six continents. Others posted:
• “I am a Buddhist. Also a respiratory therapist. I believe in God and fasting and prayer. I am honored to join you all.”
• “I am a Scientologist and I will most def join in on this.”
• “If you all don’t mind a pagan, I am all in.”
• “I’m Methodist from the Philippines. I will join you in fasting and prayer.”
• “Been inactive for 15 years and don’t follow any organized religion, ever since but have no doubt in the power of the fast and prayer. Let’s do it!”
The National Association of Evangelicals has also issued a call for a day of fasting and prayer on Good Friday.
“On Good Friday, let’s call God’s people to pray and fast throughout the nation,” NAE President Walter Kim wrote. “We will be praying in different languages. Some will be using liturgy; others will be speaking in tongues. But all will be praying in faith that God reigns, listens and responds.”
On Twitter, people are posting about the fast using like hashtags #GoodFridayFast and #WorldwideFast.
“During times of deep distress, as when illness reaches pandemic proportions, the most natural thing for us to do is to call upon our Heavenly Father and his Son — the master healer — to show forth their marvelous power to bless the people of the Earth,” President Nelson said on Saturday.
“Let us unite in pleading for healing throughout the world,” he added. “Good Friday would be the perfect day to have our Heavenly Father and his Son hear us.”
The Facebook group was launched by Elder Jaden Taylor, 20, a Latter-day Saint missionary who is self-isolating during in California the pandemic.
“We are quarantined in our apartment, so we are trying to find ways to still spread the gospel or even just spread happiness and uplifting messages through whatever means we can,” he said.
Taylor did not anticipate the group’s rapid growth but said it is understandable given the pandemic.
“There’s so many uplifting comments and posts, it made people feel loved, and perhaps that what’s helped, uniting us together as we are going through the struggle of COVID-19,” he said.
He felt especially good that the group has brought together people from all faiths and even those who do not believe.
“I think that’s absolutely fantastic. No matter where we are or what our background is, that we are able to unite in something really brings peace to my heart,” he said.
The Facebook group’s other administrators are also Latter-day Saint missionaries — Elder Logan Allen of the same mission in California and Sister Dakota Kovach, who is in Lansing, Michigan.
The “Worldwide Fast April 10” Facebook group is just one among several. Other groups and individuals have created similar momentum. Another media outlet posted the fast as an event on Facebook. So far, more than 20,000 people have said they are “going” and another 8,400 have said they are interested.
Thousands of other people have been sharing the call for a fast on Twitter and Instagram, and hundreds have created memes and other shareable content across all social media platforms.
Another display of interfaith effort emerged Tuesday in Peru. Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra ended his daily COVID-19 broadcast by sharing a video produced by Religions for Peace, Peru’s interfaith council.
The video showed numerous religious leaders joining in a prayer for peace and reconciliation among all.
Catholic and evangelical leaders were among those who prayed, as was Elder Enrique Falabella, president of the South America Northeast Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.