A 24-hour Online Vigil Will Name Some of the People Who Have Died of Coronavirus

Health service workers light candles at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, New York, in mid-April. The #NamingTheLost vigil will be held for 24 hours online to remain socially distant, beginning at 2 p.m. May 20. Photo by John Nacion via AP

Ahead of Memorial Day, which honors the nation’s wartime dead, a coalition of activists from across the country will hold a 24-hour online vigil naming some of the people who have died of COVID-19.

The #NamingTheLost vigil will begin Wednesday (May 20) at 2 p.m. Eastern on Facebook and end at 2 p.m. Thursday.

“By taking 24 hours to read the names of those we have lost, we seek to humanize and honor each person — and those whose names we do not know — at a time when we must be physically apart,” the website for the vigil states.

There is no central database listing the names of the more than 90,000 Americans and 318,000 people globally who have died. So vigil volunteers have culled more than 10,000 names from obituaries and Facebook memorial pages. Volunteers will recite those names in between readings, songs and prayers. A list of at least 500 nursing homes where individuals have died will also be named.

“Historically, we might turn to our government or people in power or authority to lead us through a national mourning process,” said the Rev. Jennifer Bailey, executive director of the Faith Matters Network who is among those volunteering for the effort. “In the absence of that leadership and guidance, it’s up to everyday citizens, as it often is, to create that space.”

Multiple religious and civic groups, including Auburn Theological Seminary, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, the Sierra Club and the Women’s March, have helped publicize the vigil on social media. The vigil is mostly U.S.-centered, but volunteers from the United Kingdom and South Korea have also been enlisted to help read names during the wee hours of the night in the U.S.

Marathon naming vigils are not uncommon. Groups have organized to read the names of those who were killed during the Holocaust or who died during the 9/11 terrorist strikes.

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Source: Religion News Service