News Release

Virtual Interfaith Discussion Provides Caribbean Youth with Guidance on How to Strengthen Faith During Pandemic

“How can I get closer to Heavenly Father … during the pandemic?” asked a Christian youth from the Caribbean.

Hundreds of religious youth ages 12–17 from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico tuned in to, “Relationships with God During COVID-19,” the Church’s first streamed interfaith panel broadcast comprised of and for Caribbean youth.

 

On Friday, August 21, 2020, young Spanish-speaking Caribbean members from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Assemblies of God, the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination, as well as other Christians from the same age-group, were invited to participate in the youth-moderated, Q&A-formatted and virtual interreligious discussion.

“It was an opportunity to share the common beliefs that we have as youth and to provide direction so they can find what they’re looking for,” said 16-year-old Bryan Beras, from San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.

Beras, who belongs to the Assemblies of God church, hosted the interdenominational event with Yissella Meléndez, a 17-year-old Latter-day Saint from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Caribbean Virtual Interfaith Panel 2
Teenagers Bryan Beras and Yissella Meléndez, both from the Dominican Republic, host a virtual interdenominational event with two religious leaders from the different faiths they belong to on Friday, August 21, 2020. Beras, a member of Assemblies of God and Meléndez, a Latter-day Saint, represented youth from the Caribbean who submitted questions for the leaders through social media platforms. 2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
                  

Although the two teenagers belong to different religious denominations, Meléndez explained that interfaith events are key to ensuring “constructive dialogue.”

“Religious tolerance is essential,” said Meléndez, who is an advocate for all types of activities that help promote awareness about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Remaining anchored when the world is full of bad news and distractions can be complicated, especially for youth, which is why it’s important to increase our spirituality and strengthen our relationship with God,” she added.

“Due to the pandemic we are going through, we aren’t able to meet in person with our friends, family or brothers and sisters from Church,” said Beras at the beginning of the streamed event.

The hosts represented Christian youth from the two island nations who submitted questions through WhatsApp and Facebook, seeking guidance from the event’s guest speakers and leaders from both global faiths, including Elder Jorge M. Alvarado of the Seventy and Nérsido Borg, a Dominican pastor of the Evangelical faith.

“Part of our responsibility is to guide youth and to provide tranquility during a storm,” said Pastor Borg, who has served as a religious leader in the Caribbean community for almost four decades.

“They have a lot of questions that many times we overlook, but they need someone to talk to them,” he added.

“Youth want to have a connection with God,” said Elder Alvarado, a general authority from Puerto Rico. “What better forum than this one, where people are at home, to invite them to come closer to [God]?”

Similar to many people around the world who have adjusted their day-to-day lives because of the coronavirus pandemic, people of faith, including Latter-day Saints, have also found new ways to exercise their beliefs.

“The virus has naturally led youth to feel uncertain about their future,” explained Meléndez.

According to Meléndez, schools in the Dominican Republic suspended in-person classes before the school year was over, and Sunday meetings for her local Latter-day Saint congregation were also adjusted to prevent COVID-19’s spread.

For more than 90 minutes, both faiths’ guest speakers continued answering questions about appropriate use of social media, increased patience with unanswered prayers and dealing with anxiety — concerns that youth voiced as challenges associated with the pandemic.

“The pandemic has changed things, but humans’ pain remains the same,” said Pastor Borg, in response to a viewer who submitted the question “How do I feel God’s love after losing a loved one?”

“One of the first things to do when you lose a loved one is to let the pain flow,” said Pastor Borg. “Look for peace and comfort in God. Get closer to Him.”

“We are going to have the opportunity to return to our Maker. Life does not end here,” said Elder Alvarado. “If you are suffering and going through difficulty … be comforted that anyone who believes, ‘though he were dead, yet shall he live.’”

                                    

Prerecorded musical numbers from youth representing the two faiths were also included as part of the streamed event, including “The Blessing,” a song performed by an Assemblies of God trio, and “Reaching Out,” a music video from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 2020 youth music album.

“Today I felt a spirit of unity and I am so grateful for [Pastor Borg’s] willingness to share our feelings [with youth],” said Elder Alvarado, shortly after the event.

“Even though we may share separate spaces and locations, we should seek the things that unite us with one another more than what separates us, to find a common cause and, together, unite against situations like this pandemic,” shared Pastor Borg.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.