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Between Sacredness and Public Health: Global Religious Sacred Places and the Fight Against COVID-19

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This paper aims to explore the diverse impacts of religious sacred places on specific spheres of contemporary international relations, particularly in the context of public health governance as well as the fight against COVID-19. The spread of disease or germs and viruses within the context of pilgrimage, the healing purposes associated with such practices, as well as historical conquests of sacred places have attracted the attention of ancient physicians and modern scientists. In the nineteenth century, many Abrahamic religions sought to strengthen their influence in the Holy Land, particularly in the sacred city of Jerusalem. As part of their efforts, they focused on constructing modern hospitals, which became a means of religious competition over the region. From the perspective of the specific relationship between the sacred places and the public health governance system in the modern age, sacred places continue to succeed in animal management (native animals and sacrifice animals), water source management (sacred water and holy rivers), and management of sanitary quarantine (the extension of homeland health security defense), which have present positive effects. Based on the literature review, case analysis and interdisciplinary research methods, several findings have emerged regarding the global fight against COVID-19 since early 2020. Mecca-Medina, Jerusalem-Bethlehem, Rome-Vatican, Santiago de Compostela, Qom, and other religious sacred cities have faced huge pandemic pressures. These cities have played unique roles in protecting the health of pilgrims and have implemented measures to reduce the number and scale of pilgrimages in response to the global mobility challenges posed by the pandemic.

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  1. This is a kind of food safety. As part of the religious rituals especially the animal sacrifice, large scale animals butchering as personal actions and the meat products for others, are often lacks of health quarantine and is prone to breeding diseases during transportation.


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This work was supported by Major Project of Shanghai International Studies University, (Grant No. 41001651), Song Niu. Innovation Team of Shanghai International Studies University, (Grant No. 2020114046), Song Niu. National Social Science Fund of China, (Grant No. 21BZJ054), Song Niu.

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Correspondence to Song Niu.

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‘Evolution of Middle East Politics and Momentous Changes Unseen in A Century’ (Shanghai International Studies University). Support from the Major Project of Shanghai International Studies University.

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This is an observational study. Shanghai International Studies University Ethics Committee has confirmed that no ethical approval is required. Author of the article is responsible for correctness of the statements provided in the manuscript.

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Niu, S. Between Sacredness and Public Health: Global Religious Sacred Places and the Fight Against COVID-19. J Relig Health (2023).

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