Select Page

National Public Radio – Coronavirus Is Changing The Rituals Of Death For Many Religions

Coronavirus is changing the rituals of death for many religions including all across Asia. In India Hindus have had to forego the tradition of their departed loved ones being cremated next to the Ganges, or having their ashes put in its waters, as it has become difficult to travel due to a nationwide lockdown. However, many government officials are actually encouraging cremation, as they say the cemeteries are too crowded, posing a risk of contamination. Some Muslims believe that this is just an excuse for Islamophobia, as Islam prohibits cremation. And in Israel, Jews of all stripes have had to adapt practices for shiva, the weeklong gathering of mourning. In the past, a lockdown would’ve forced Jews to mourn alone, but now many mourners are accepting virtual shiva calls through Zoom.

On April 3, Iraqi volunteers in full hazmat gear prayed over the coffin of a 50-year-old who died of COVID-19. She was buried at a cemetery specifically opened for such deaths, some 12 miles from the holy city of Najaf. Haidar Hamdani/AFP via Getty Images


Al Jazeera – Anguish as Sri Lanka forces Muslims to Cremate COVID-19 Victims 

At least 2 Muslim COVID-19 victims in Sri Lanka have been cremated against their wishes. This is opposed to the traditional Muslim funeral rites of burial. The WHO guidelines allow burial or cremation for coronavirus victims. Many Muslims in this majority Buddhist nation believe that there is a racist agenda behind the forced cremations and with the aid of international organizations, such as Amnesty International, are trying to reverse the regulations. Since the end of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009 Buddhist groups have targeted Muslims with hate, a feeling only intensified since a Muslim Terrorist organization was blamed for attacks in 2019 that killed more than 250 people.

Workers Inserting Bodies into a Crematorium Oven

The forced cremations have sent shock waves in the Muslim community in Sri Lanka. Al Jazeera


Japan Times – Coronavirus Pandemic Fuels Trend Toward Smaller Funerals in Japan

A trend in Japan of smaller funerals, due to many factors, including an increase in the percentage of the elderly, smaller families, and a desire to save money, will probably only intensify due to the coronavirus. Instead of coming in person to pay respects and offer condolence money, a traditional custom in Japan, people are now sending the payments online. And some families are deciding to cremate now and hold services at a later date while others are deciding to forego the expensive and elaborate Buddhist rituals and have a small one-day ceremony.

A Japanese Priest Prays in Front of a Crowd

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, funeral attendance is declining and memorial services are being postponed and even canceled. AP


Reuters – Death in the Holy Land: Coronavirus Changes Burial for Jews, Muslims

Burial rituals for coronavirus victims have had to be adapted in Israel and Palestine. Israeli Jews normally ritually wash the deceased before burying them in cloth, with no coffin. Now, for coronavirus victims, the washing has to be done in full protective gear and the body must be wrapped in plastic before internment. Families of the deceased have also not been able to open their houses to guests during the mourning period (3 days for Muslims, 7 days for Jews) and so some have taken to accepting condolences through social media.