Interfaith Conversations on Masculinity & Covid-19
May 6, 2020
I have been working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a health communication fellow for the past year and a half, supporting the marketing communication of a mobile health app focused on children’s development. When I witnessed the unforgiving nature of Covid-19 and the many lives it was taking, I felt called to change my focus and join the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Response at the CDC. As a clearance coordinator, I streamline internal communication processes for my task force, which is one of the many roles needed to communicate essential health information out to the public.
As an interfaith leader, I am always looking for opportunities to build community, which means identifying shared experiences, values or pain points amongst people from different backgrounds. We all share Covid-19 as an incredible pain point in our lives. While chatting with a friend about her relationship with Christianity, she shared how her religion served as a source of comfort for her. Trying to learn more about my culturally Hindu / philosophically Agnostic worldview, she asked me: where do you draw your comfort?
I thought to myself, where do I draw my comfort from? Ever since I was a young boy, my parents emphasized the importance of health. Since then, I drew comfort from my health. Over time, I realized that health was a value shared amongst people from all types of backgrounds. Regardless of what we believe, we all want to ensure that our communities, families and selves are the healthiest they can be.
Recently, I’ve been using my interest in health during Covid-19 as an opportunity to expand our understanding of masculinity. In a time when we are all undergoing a collective trauma, it feels important to emphasize that vulnerability, emotional expression and help-seeking behaviors – all behaviors that are not traditionally considered masculine – can be leveraged as signs of strength.
It has been such a refreshing experience to have open and honest conversations with diverse groups of people around identity, worldview and healthy masculinity. As an Interfaith Innovation Fellow for the Interfaith Youth Core, I plan to continue facilitating these dialogues and eventually write a culturally inclusive children’s book that teaches young boys how they can express themselves in healthy ways.
It makes me very proud to be involved in such a compassionate and active interfaith community that also saw the global health pandemic as an opportunity to support one another, and to me, that is what Interfaith America is all about.
This article was prepared by Suraj Arshanapally in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, or the United States government.