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Coronavirus: 'Religion helped me through lockdown'

Hannah, Sharan, Philip and Adrisa Image copyright Contributors

"Faith is a core part of my identity. Without it, I think lockdown would have been so much harder."

Changing the way we live because of coronavirus has been hard for a lot of us.

For some people, like Philip Baldwin, prayer has made a big difference in getting through three tough months of lockdown.

"It's left a big void which religion has been able to fill somewhat, even without going to church," the 29-year-old tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

Under government rules, places of worship have now reopened for individual prayer only, after months of being shut down.

"It's the personal connection to God which gives you hope," he adds.

'A sense of community'

Philip is an LGBTQ activist and the "sudden lockdown" hit him hard. From an active social life where he would be campaigning, he was stuck inside his home.

"I don't have a partner and I live alone, it's tough."

He says it was "a time of anxiety" finding out church services and group prayer were suspended as part of the lockdown.

But it's given him a chance to strengthen his personal prayer, which has helped Philip through lonely days.

"I created a sacred space in my home for prayer and reflection, with a few select items like the Bible and candles, celebrating Jesus and reflecting on his teachings."

Image copyright Philip Baldwin
Image caption "Personal prayer has deepened my relationship with Jesus"

Despite missing human contact with fellow congregation members in person, he credits his church, which comes under the Anglican Church of England, for bringing together members virtually.

"Each week we've been sent a service sheet so we can worship at the same time on a Sunday. We pray for selected members each time so nobody feels left out."

During lockdown, Philip has only seen his neighbours, so this has helped "maintain a sense of community" which he doesn't think he would otherwise have.

'A higher power taking care of me'

Adrisa Prasher, 17, tells Newsbeat her belief in Hinduism has made her calmer than she thought she'd be.

"I know that the pandemic isn't over. But I feel like there is a higher power taking care of me, and it's reassuring," she tells Newsbeat.

Unlike Philip, Adrisa wasn't very religious before the crisis, which she says caused her to be anxious at the start.

But the extra time on her hands has given her a chance to explore Hinduism further - which has been important for her "personal growth".

Normally after studying, she'd be playing sport with her friends. Instead, she is "reading old texts about Hinduism".

That's brought a "calmness that has helped" her study for A-levels and boosted her self-belief.

"Knowing I've got someone looking over me has reduced my fear and makes me think I can achieve anything in the future if I try."

Image copyright Adrisa Prashar
Image caption "I'm more inquisitive and learning about religion has helped me through the days"

That's something which resonates with Sharan Kaur Singh, who like Adrisa, feels a sense of security.

The 24-year-old says she's come to terms with the crisis only after reading more about the history of Sikhism.

"Challenges and struggle have been happening for ages. But religion teaches you God has a plan and it's helped accept reality a lot more."

That acceptance makes Sharan feel a "lot healthier and less overwhelmed".

'It's been great for my mental health'

For a lot of people in this crisis, managing mental health has been a challenge. But for Kasim Bashir and Hannah Radley, faith has been important in doing that.

Kasim, 24, has had anxiety issues in the past, and lockdown caused those "memories to resurface sometimes".

It was his faith - Islam - which helped him through before, and it's the same now.

"When I feel down mentally, I turn to God to feel better. I do my prayers, read the Quran on occasions and keep the faith."

"It's like God is with me, guiding me through the tough times."

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Media captionRamadan: Diaries from life in lockdown

For Hannah, 23, being Jewish has had a practical impact on helping her mental health.

After finishing her master's degree, she is unemployed and living at home with her parents, which "is great but also very intense".

Image copyright Hannah Radley
Image caption "I've had time to become closer to God by reading more about my faith"

"Faith gives me another side to life and exploring that area has given me strength," she says.

She refers to Shabbath - a weekly period of rest in Judaism where no work is done - as being a day to reset.

"Even though we're in odd times, I can still follow that part of my faith at home."

'I feel there is hope'

With so much tragedy and sadness caused by the coronavirus, it's normal to feel down.

But for Philip, his increased connection with faith has been positive, with him feeling "more comfortable and fulfilled" with his identity.

"As a gay Christian man, I have no shame being gay and Christian, I see no conflict between my identity as a gay man and a Christian."

Image copyright Sharan Kaur Singh
Image caption "In the uncertainty, there's a security, serenity and safeness you feel with God"

Faith has taught Sharan that good times can come after tough challenges.

"Years ago, people got through tough times and they did it without having entertainment and TV. It was a struggle," she says.

"But they ended up better for it."

And Hannah admits her prospects are difficult for the time being.

"But things can always be worse, and prayer has helped me get through tough times.

"Because of the trust I have in my faith, I think things will eventually turn out well, both for myself and for the world," she adds.

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