IDAHO FALLS — People of all different faiths and from various parts of the world are coming together on Good Friday with one purpose in mind.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called for a worldwide fast to take place April 10 for relief from the COVID-19 pandemic. After making the announcement during his Saturday evening general conference talk, a Worldwide Fast Facebook page was created.
More than 300,000 people joined the Facebook group in three days, and many of them are not Latter-day Saints. People of various beliefs — including Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Messianic Jews, Pentecostals and Atheists — posted that they planned to participate.
“Christ is the Master Healer, and we can unite to call upon His power through this worldwide fast,” the group description reads. “This group is intended to unite together to spiritually uplift each other to prepare for the fast. It is also for the opportunity for those who don’t know about fasting to learn about it.”
Members of the group wrote posts about previous times they’d fasted in their lives, while other people explained why they are fasting even though they’ve never done it before.
Alice Monroe was invited to join the Facebook group by a Latter-day Saint relative. Monroe was raised a Baptist, but now attends a non-denominational church in Arizona. She lost a friend to COVID-19 earlier this week, and now she says she is even more determined and focused to fast.
“I’ve been doing a lot of research on intermittent fasting and the health benefits of it, so I was naturally interested in the idea of fasting,” she told EastIdahoNews.com. “Really, the whole thing with COVID-19 is scary and stressful to the whole world right now, so prayers are definitely needed.”
Zen Buddhism is another religion that will be represented in the fast. Isaac Johnson of Arizona said it is the art of meditation.
“I wanted to participate in the fasting because I felt it is for a bigger and greater cause than any one individual. One’s energy can go so far in affecting change,” he said. “But when you combine people from all religious walks of life coming together for a worldly common goal, I wanted to be part of it. The amount of energy being sent out unto this world is exciting.”
Fasting and sincere prayer is something Oklahoma resident Ronni Malone believes can help people prepare themselves and others to receive God’s blessings. She is a member of The Church of the Nazarene.
“It is a source of spiritual strength. We are all God’s children. Seeing everyone come together from around the world is amazing,” Malone told EastIdahoNews.com.
Charity Dimas, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said she is participating because of the peace she feels when she fasts. As a health care worker in Utah, she said her daily routine has become more “tumultuous,” and she is looking forward to focusing on finding comfort.
“Having more people participate has a compounding effect. There’s something truly magical about fasting with a community, not just choosing a day to do it on your own,” Dimas said. “I appreciate the (invitation) to fast that was extended by President Nelson.”
Nelson said fasting normally means going without food for two meals or a period of 24 hours with a purpose in mind. But he added people could decide what constitutes as a sacrifice for them.
Some people in the Facebook group — for reasons specific to them — said while they won’t be fasting from food, they will instead give up their phones, social media and TV time.
“I believe in the power that faith has to bless our lives. I am nursing and have issues with hypoglycemia, so I can’t fast,” LDS member Aubrielle Pluim of Indianapolis said. “The idea (in my opinion) behind fasting is sacrificing something meaningful to you to show the Lord that you are meek and submissive, thus being better qualified to receive blessings. For me, I have a sweet tooth, but I can’t completely give up sugar, so chocolate is my sacrifice.”
As strangers unite during this pandemic, people who don’t have a specific faith, such as Idaho Falls resident Angela Adams, believe the Facebook group alone is something to believe in.
“It absolutely fills my heart with peace, love and unity,” she said. “It makes me think that if nothing else comes out of this situation we are in, at least there is this. It gives me so much hope.”