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Religions pause to contemplate during coronavirus

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"The shortest definition of religion: interruption," as the Catholic theologian Johann Baptist Metz, who died in December, famously wrote.

Metz, a German who promoted a "new political theology," associated interruption with the promise of glory for sufferers and used it to warn against the embourgeoisement of religion.

Now, the world is experiencing an interruption that crosses borders and society. The coronavirus knows no boundaries: COVID-19 is a pandemic, a global threat. The world stands still; the world is in fear. When hundreds of thousands of people die in Africa as a result of famine, when a volcano spews ash and lava in Iceland, when a tsunami brings suffering and death to Asia, most of the world's population can watch the events unfold from a distance. Those times are over. The coronavirus pandemic affects everyone.

That makes the outbreak a religious and spiritual question. Pain, sorrow, doubt, anger — the faithful have to accept that all those things are possible in God's creation. There are some who paint the pandemic as divine retribution. But that speaks of a confused image of God.

Read more: German churches overcoming coronavirus isolation

Passover, also called Pesach, is one of the major Jewish holidays. The week-long holiday beings at sundown on the first day. It follows the lunar calendar, meaning it takes place every year on different dates, but it usually falls in mid-March of April. It celebrates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt under the leadership of the Old Testament prophet Moses.

According to the Old Testament, God acted through Moses to demand that Pharoah free the Israelites. After the ruler initially refused, God sent ten destructive plagues to the Egyptians, including death of the first born child. The Israelites were sparred this loss by marking their doors with a lamb's blood — in this way, they were "passed over."

After the plague of death, Pharoah let the Israelites go, but then changed his mind and chased them down with his army. At the Red Sea, Moses held out his staff, God parted the water, and the Israelites crossed the dry passage before the waters then tumbled down upon the Egyptian army. The scene has inspired many works of film and art, such as this 16th-century work by Lucas Cranach the Elder.

Many of the events in Passover story are symbolically represented in the Passover dinner meal, or Seder. The most important seders take place on the first and second nights of the holiday. The Haggadah (above), a text that recounts the Passover........

© Deutsche Welle