Priestess Laura D'Oya Yalorixa, right, hugs a devotee during an Umbanda religious ceremony closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic but broadcast live, marking St. George's Day at the Casa de Caridade Santa Bárbara Iansa in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, April 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Bruna Prado)
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Around the world April was the month when many religions celebrated their most important holidays. But it also was the month when the focus for individuals was on burial rites as they said goodbye to loved ones as COVID-19 continued to impact the religious world.

Flames and smoke rose from the funeral pyres of COVID-19 victims in a makeshift, outdoor mass crematorium in New Delhi.

To the north in Haridwar, holy men in face coverings waited for a procession to the Ganges River for a dip in its waters, believed to absolve one’s sins, during the Hindu festival Kumbh Mela.

Also in that holy city, a young boy having his head shaved at the river’s bank was one of thousands of pilgrims who flocked there even as states nationwide instituted virus lockdowns.

The eyes of the world turned toward India in April as coronavirus cases and deaths spiked precipitously there, setting new global records for the most daily infections in a single country. So, too, did the lenses of photographers documenting the pandemic’s fast-moving spread in the nation of nearly 1.4 billion people, yielding some of the AP's most compelling faith-related images of the month.

While India is majority Hindu, it’s also home to some 200 million Muslims who were likewise obliged to balance pandemic restrictions and precautions with observances of Ramadan, which runs through mid-May. In Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Muslims wearing masks prayed inside the shrine of Sufi saint Shiekh Abdul Qadir Jeelani during the holy month, when the faithful refrain from eating, drinking and smoking from dawn to dusk.

Similar scenes played out elsewhere in the Muslim world for Ramadan.

In Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority nation, a man wore his mask over his eyes as a blindfold while napping at a mosque in Depok, waiting to break his fast. Families in Jakarta, the capital, ate together on outdoor tables set up next to food stands as twilight faded into night.

There were fireworks in Gaza for Ramadan, as well as strings of colored lights in the streets of Jerusalem. The disputed holy city also saw clashes between Palestinians and police over restrictions on outdoor gatherings, and a series of violent confrontations between Jewish and Palestinian youths.

Many of the world’s Christians celebrated Easter on the first Sunday of April as the culmination of the most sacred week of the year for the faith. In Caracas an effigy representing Judas Iscariot burned on a darkened street, though most Venezuelans were staying home with Holy Week activities canceled amid a rise in coronavirus infections and deaths.

And in Moscow, beaming children and their parents released birds into the air in celebration of the Annunciation ahead of Orthodox Easter, which this year falls in early May.

These and more are among the AP’s top faith-related images published in April.


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Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content.