What you'll learn

  • How religion has shaped responses to past disasters, disease, and catastrophe.
  • How to relate the past to our present
  • How to create new ways to respond to respond to the uncertainty, loss, and isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic

Course description

The disruption and suffering caused by the novel coronavirus seem unprecedented, but pandemics are not new to human experience. Throughout history, disease, disaster, catastrophe, and chaos have shaped human society and culture in profound ways.

Religions in particular have shaped and been shaped by our experiences of illness, isolation, uncertainty, and loss. They provide crucial perspectives, wisdom, and practices that enable communities both to endure crises like the current pandemic and, by working together, to emerge from them.

We will start with a short introductory session on Sunday evening. Monday through Thursday will consist of half-day sessions where some of Harvard’s leading scholars will lead you through an exploration of the ways the spiritual, moral, and historical lessons of the world’s religions can help us both to understand our global predicament and to create new ways of responding to it.

The lectures will be followed by small facilitated breakout sessions where students discuss what they heard and reflect on what it means to them personally. Optional spiritual practices will be offered before we start the day. These practices will range from Buddhist meditation, centering prayer, and yoga.

Associated Schools

  • Harvard Divinity School

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