Religious meets shift online during Covid-19
Physical exchange of ideas and discussions during COVID19 became an impossible task. During these times we are wedged in our homes and social distancing is the order of the day. During these times, exploration of a new virtual world with great enthusiasm landed us in discussions and dialogues online. Suddenly, there is a tsunami of online discussions through web links and instant messaging apps urging us to join a new virtual world on various online apps like Zoom, Whatsapp, Whova, Webex and Google Meet etc. Several online platforms became instrumental and making people join webinars not only from their comfort zones but also from institutional quarantine centres.
Online seminars, including online meetings and webinars, have become favourite to those who could not reach such events even during the pre-COVID-19 era. The greatest advantage of such events is that at a single point of time up to 10,000 people can connect together and exchange ideas verbally or visually. Such a large number of participants cannot be managed physically during any conference, workshop or seminar, be it a national or international event. Same can occur for the religious meetings and rituals.
Experts from the varies fields, from all over the world, are coming online and participating virtually in webinars to present their work and others are benefitting from it. Today, we are living in the age of the 4th generation wireless technology, internet seamlessly connecting the world. To login in or connect with these webinars, the only thing is to have an internet connection and smart devices.
Today almost everything is available online. Today online is the medium to connect with the outside world, and it is also an accessible mode of communication. People belonging to remote areas can join online and be part of religious meetings without going out. However, we are not sure if everyone would want to be a part of these digital platforms. Sometimes, people living in rural and remote areas are not able to connect online. In fact, webinars on practicing religion should be open to all so that anyone can access them. With this purview, online religious practice becomes easily accessible depending upon time and availability of the person who wants to perform the same.
Webinars are online platforms for inter-exchanging ideas and are much cost effective and people from different parts of the world can connect together and exchange religious view with others. Religious meetings and various rituals can be performed online easily. Webinars based on religious themes, during COVID-19 pandemic, are aggregating to all those who are interested in exchanging ideas and creating religious awareness as well as taking measures to fight pandemic in a religious way and creating a healthy and clean atmosphere around and living a safe life.
People from different geographical regions can join the webinars of their interest and can participate consequently. Another advantage of webinars is that they are accessible according to the ease of the listener. If at a given time a participant is not able to attend the session, he record the session and access it later. They provide unlimited access and functionality to the participant. Participants can chat with each other, they can exchange slides, send their pre-recorded sessions to be played later on the webinars and can exchange many online activities at the same time. Earlier the maximum effort that organisers of the seminars and conference took was to make a call on Skype for an online talk by some distinguished personality if they could not make it to the session. That was for a small group of people. However, now with the emergence of webinars all can access at the same point.
A large group of people get connected at the same time on the same platform and can participate in the sessions. People from different countries are participating in these online seminars or webinars and exchanging ideas worldwide. It is most cost-effective and fast method of communication. The emergence of webinars made the world much closer and well communicated, providing space to exchange ideas worldwide at the same platform and at the same time which is almost captivating feature of these new technologies. These are end to end online affairs involving a large number of people worldwide and spreading the message far and wide.
Conclusion: Before COVID-19, did we ever deliberate or contemplate about organising online religious conferences, seminars etc? Thanks to COVID-19, it opened avenues of eco-friendly and virtually accessible conferences, seminars and workshops, although we are facing the predicament of digital divide and it is not possible to reach each and every person. Nevertheless, the emergence of religious webinars is of immense help to people who are far away from religion and are ignorant about spending their lives accordingly. This is how online webinars are changing and transforming the complete approach of religious learning and exchanging ideas from offline meetings worldwide. Assembly of faiths during Covid19 is a matter of importance. Gathering at temples for prayers, Sunday meetings for Christians and many festivals and religious occasions are been hindered and not celebrated and practised as they are supposed to be. Being together at prayer is no doubt hindered but it has opened a new vista of online prayer meetings. And with the increase in online access, everything becomes much easier and accessible in us. The crises situation which was generated due to a pandemic opens new ways to online religious conferences and seminars to fight this situation with ease till this ends.
—Dr. Rahila Sikandar is a lawyer in Allahabad High Court; Dr. Mohammad Asif is Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics. Zakir Husain Delhi College, Delhi