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The impact and role of religion in Covid-19 health messaging

June 4 @ 1:00 pm - 2:15 pm


The London International Development Centre (LIDC) Research Seminar series shines a spotlight on exciting research and initiatives in international development and provides a platform for organisations and researchers to share their research and engage in dialogue with an audience of researchers, professional services staff, and students from our member institutions, as well as NGOs, think tanks and the broader civil society.


Religion, Covid-19 and health messaging

In this webinar, we will be exploring the impact of religion on Covid-19 health messaging. Religious gatherings have been attracting concern for the role they have played as drivers of the spread of the disease. Some faith leaders have been criticised for calling on the faithful to continue to attend religious gatherings in defiance of public health advice. (In some instances this has resulted in religious-based violence, where individual religious adherents have been accused of knowingly spreading the virus.) Yet religion has also been credited with slowing down the spread of Covid-19, as in many low-income countries faith leaders are often perceived as more trustworthy than health officials and have been able to offer communities health information framed in ways that are culturally and theologically relevant, as well as being understandable and contextually practical. Many faith communities are using online platforms to worship and to offer much-needed pastoral care, with one Facebook group of over 6,300 clergy representing various traditions across the world sharing resources for how mosques, temples and churches can support infection-control measures.


The speakers

This seminar will be facilitated by Professor Claire Heffernan, Director, LIDC. The speakers are Dr William Ackah (Birkbeck University, Department of Geography, Chair of the Transatlantic Roundtable on Religion and Race), Tahririh Danesh (consultant, author and human rights activist dedicated to research and investigation of violations of human rights abuses against minorities based on religion, ethnicity, gender or age), Associate Professor Mehmet Ozalp (founding Director of the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation at Charles Sturt University (CSU) in Australia) and Clive Aruede, Association of Black Humanists.


Format of the event

Each speaker will present for approximately 10 minutes, during which the audiences’ microphones will be muted and cameras switched off. Those wishing to ask questions should indicate this by right clicking on their name in the participants’ section, and using the blue raised hand icon. Questioners will be taken in order by LIDC, and if called on to speak will be unmuted and can use video. Please be aware that this seminar is being recorded and will be posted on LIDC’s website. Please also note we do not issue certificates of attendance for these seminars. We encourage you to visit LIDC’s website to find out more about becoming a member of LIDC. Please connect with us via our social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.



1. Dr William Ackah, Birkbeck Department of Geography (1.10-1.20)

2. Tahirih Danesh, consultant, author and human rights activist (1.20-1.30)

3. Professor Mehmet Ozalp, Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation, Charles Sturt University (1.30-1.40)

4. Clive Aruede, Association of Black Humanists (1.40-1.50)


Dr William Ackah is Lecturer in the Department of Geography at Birkbeck University of London (an LIDC member institution). He is current chair of the Transatlantic Roundtable on Religion and Race, an international organization that brings together academics, community activists and church leaders with the aim of tackling injustices faced by people of African descent around the world. He is the co-editor with Jualynne Dodson and R. Drew Smith of Religion, Culture and Spirituality in Africa and the African Diaspora (New York: Routledge, 2018). He is a Fulbright Research Scholar and is doing ongoing research on gentrification and its impact on African American Church congregations and communities in Pittsburgh and Black communities in London. Find out more about William on Birkbeck’s website.


Tahirih Danesh is a consultant, author and human rights activist dedicated to research and investigation of violations of human rights abuses against minorities based on religion, ethnicity, gender or age. Tahirih assists organisations & populations, including those in shifting dynamics, to explore innovative research & education to achieve socioeconomic advancement. Committed to ethical change management through transparency, accountability, sustainability and gender equality, she is a public speaker, educator and provide expert opinions to media, governmental & international bodies, including those at the United Nations, around human rights and development. You can find out more about Tahirih on LinkedIn.

Associate Professor Mehmet Ozalp is founding Director of the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation at Charles Sturt University (CSU) in Australia. He is an executive member of Public and Contextual Theology (PaCT), a research centre at CSU.

Mehmet has pioneered designing and conducting Islamic courses in English within the Muslim Community. He has developed and written material for numerous courses on Islamic theology, history and contemporary issues around Islam, including a four-year advanced course titled Theology of Qur’an. He has lectured in Islamic courses as part of Sydney University’s Continuing Education Program from 2003 to 2008. He has also lectured at the University of Newcastle from 2007 to 2010.

Mehmet has worked in the interfaith and intercultural scene in Australia since 2000. In 2009, Mehmet founded ISRA Australia, an educational and research organisation focusing on providing information and educational services on Islam and Muslims, winning three prestigious awards for his work. Mehmet is the author of three books: 101 Questions You Asked About Islam and Islam in the Modern World and Islam between Tradition and Modernity: An Australian Perspective. He has also co-authored Sustained Dialogue: Close Encounters of the Muslim-Christian Kind, as well as book chapters and journal articles. Find out more about Mehmet on Charles Sturt University’s website.


Clive Aruede was a Eucharistic Minister in the Roman Catholic Church. He left the RC Church because whilst doing research to answer the question “What is science?”, he kept finding that the religious narrative (for which there was no evidence) was consistently undermined by scientific explanations of the world (backed by overwhelming evidence).  He chose to follow science and abandoned religion.  He joined the British Humanist Association and soon after, together with three friends, founded the Association of Black Humanists, because although Humanism is a universal philosophy, Black people are faced with a unique set of challenges and we must tackle them by ourselves.

Since its inception, ABH has worked tirelessly to provide a safe space for non-religious people and to spread reason, rationality and critical thinking in the African Diasporic communities.

Find out more about Clive Aruede on the Association of Black Humanist’s website.

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