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LDS Apostle says labeling of religion as non-essential activity hinders pandemic recovery

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Elder David A. Bednar speaks from a studio in the Church Office Building to participants at the G20 Interfaith Forum on Wednesday, October 14, 2020. The digital 2020 forum is hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. (Photo: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Wednesday that the labeling of religion as a non-essential activity by some governments has placed an unfortunate stumbling block along the path to recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bednar was among the speakers in a five-day gathering called the G20 Interfaith Forum, which was chaired by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. G20 is the premier forum for international economic cooperation and seeks global solutions by collaborating with religious thought leaders and political representatives.

Bednar said that religious activities should be carefully limited when necessary because individual safety is a concern. However, he told an estimated 500 faith and policy leaders gathered virtually for the forum, “how secular officials understand religion and religious people deeply influences how they treat religious institutions and believers in a time of crisis. The deeper and more respectful the understanding, the more legitimate and effective public policy responses can be.”

He also noted religious freedom is recognized in international law as a “non-derogable” right. “Non-derogable” means religion is a freedom that is inviolable, even in emergencies, according to a news release.

A proper understanding of and respect for religious groups can yield important benefits for the entire community, Bednar said. This approach can foster trust and tap into the vast resources religious bodies possess, including social capital, a news release stated.

“Many religious leaders already have called on their members to make great sacrifices out of deep love and respect for the safety of others,” said Bednar, whose plenary session also included remarks from representatives from the Catholic, Jewish and Muslim faiths. “Acknowledging and respecting those sacrifices and seeking for greater cooperation and accommodation is the way forward.”

Bednar is the third Apostle and fourth Church leader to participate in the forum. Sister Sharon Eubank will speak Saturday morning — the final day of the interfaith gathering — in a plenary session about the important role of faith communities in the wake of disasters.

To watch the entire account of Bednar's speech, click here. You may also read his complete remarks here.

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