By Paul Gessler

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Imam Earl El-Amin flipped through the Quran looking for an exact passage fit for the year that was.

Finally, he found it.

“Verily, with every difficulty, there is relief.”

2020 was filled with difficulties worldwide. Tasked with counseling millions through them were religious leaders.

“Human need has escalated,” Archbishop William Lori of the Archdiocese of Baltimore said.

Regardless of faith, leaders of a number of Baltimore religious groups said it’s been a difficult year.

“The funerals and illnesses… the financial pain felt by people, is all real,” Rabbi Andrew Busch of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation said.

“It’s been an inconvenient year. It’s been a challenging year,” Lori said.

Still, they champion hope. It’s not an easy thing to do.

“The whole concept of hope for people is complicated this year,” Busch said.

“We want progress, but no one wants to deal with the challenges that come with progress,” Bishop Oscar E. Brown from the First Mt. Olive Freewill Baptist Church said.

“Hope takes time to unravel. Good things take time to appear,” Busch added.

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That hope has already appeared, Lori said, in the form of the Good Samaritan — those who went out of their ways this year to help their fellow humans.

“That’s who we need to be — and are — as a faith community,” he said. “We try to leave no one behind. We’d stop on the road for those who are in need.”

Those helpers manifested after numerous tragedies, from the pandemic to a deadly gas explosion in northwest Baltimore. They were also on the front lines and the food lines.

“Isolated as so many people have been and real pain felt by so many, there have been tremendous acts of kindness,” Busch said.

“Food, clothing, and shelter, being able to be supportive — this is what all of our faith traditions call us to,” El-Amin said.

“Some have said 2020 is the worst year. I think 2020 is bringing out of us stuff that was already in us,” Brown said.

Brown added we treated each other better this year. Still, faith — even among the faithful — faced a test.

“Real faith is for those difficult seasons, so this is a time that our faith is supposed to activate,” he said.

“All people, when they hold onto faith, it allows them to see the sun,” El-Amin said. “…It may be cloudy right now, but the sun is going to shine through eventually.”

Worship services happened virtually, in parking lots and indoors with a number of changes.

The chaos won’t stop in 2021, of course, but faith is that: for a reason.

“Relief is coming and we have to hold onto our faith, and I think that transcends Islam, Judaism, Christianity,” El-Amin said.

“Things are looking up… If we all work together, we’ll all get to the other side of this,” Busch said.

“2021, we’re all greeting it as a year of promise,” Lori said.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Paul Gessler