Keeping Hope Alive in the Time of Covid-19
The former President of Liberia, Ellen Sirleaf recently published a letter to the world on why we need to keep hope alive in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. She proposes that what is needed now particularly in Africa is not a spirit of fear, but a resilient spirit to manage the Covid-19 pandemic. She points out that while African nations have so far been spared the worst, it is simply a matter of time before the pandemic batters the African continent which is the least prepared to fight it.
There are signs that while the spread of Covid-19 has been slow in Africa, it seems to be gathering steam. According to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, “case numbers are increasing exponentially in the African region. “It took 16 days from the first confirmed case in the Region to reach 100 cases. It took a further 10 days to reach the first thousand. Three days after this, there were 2000 cases, and two days later we were at 3000.” In the midst of these rising cases, rendering panic and fear, are there any signs of hope that Africa will survive this pandemic? What should we as church leaders and scholars do to keep hope alive in these challenging times?
I can share with you the letter we have written as co-president of Pax Christi on Covid-19. https://paxchristi.net/2020/03/30/covid-19-2/ . If you also go on Pax Christi international website you will see another supporting the UN call on global ceasefire which the Pope has supported too and another letter to Trump to stop the sanctions on some of the suffering countries.
Blessings and thanks for all the prayers.
GOOD FRIDAY REFLECTION: RETHINKING COVID-19
by: Simon Aihiokhai
What does COVID-19 teach us about our world? We are more aware today that our world is a global village and that we are all interconnected. What happens in a small village in Mississippi will affect someone in Sydney, Australia.
This realization ought to compel all nations to now rethink their foreign policies. When nations position themselves to exploit other nations and deprive them of their basic abilities to care for themselves they threaten the global order. When nations perpetuate endless wars and then make themselves the false harbingers of peace, they weaken the ability of our world to survive crises that come upon us suddenly.
Today, we are faced with the endless conflict between Israel and Palestine. Boko Haram continues to kill innocent people in Northeastern Nigeria, Northwestern Cameroon, and Southern Chad. Venezuela is being systematically starved to death by the United States, Britain and their allies for daring to embrace socialist policies. Afghanistan is plagued by a religiously fueled ideological war. Zimbabwean economy has been destroyed by Britain, the United States and their allies for daring to implement its overdue land reform. Libya is a failed state that is plagued by a meaningless civil war. Syria is now the land of gravesites as the powers that be struggle for global domination while using this nation as its site for proxy wars. In the midst of all these madness, a pandemic has befallen us.
While the United States has limitless capacity to wage wars that destroy civilizations, it has failed woefully to safeguard its citizens from a pandemic that continues to infect people and take the lives of many. Has the time not come for all nations to rethink their place in the world and work towards making our world a healthy community for everyone? If the virus is not addressed in any of these war zones, it will continue to spread around the world and be a pandemic. To address this crisis, we must now STOP ALL WARS in our world. Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, Chad, Palestine, Israel, Nigeria, Cameroon, Libya, Somalia, and all lands that experience exploitation must now be allowed to experience peace. It is only through peaceful existence and an end to economic exploitation that we can collectively address this pandemic. No wall can stop this pandemic. No travel ban can stop this pandemic. It is now in our communities and continues to spread like wildfire. But a collaborative effort can help address it. Are we ready for this?
While this virus is killing the innocent, the United States continues to push for regime change in Venezuela, a move that will destabilize that nation. What Venezuela needs now is stability, a return of their gold reserves by Britain, and resources to fight this pandemic. The same is the case with Iran. Can COVID-19 help reconcile our world?
On this Good Friday, as we are surrounded by death and sickness, let us remember this, alone, we shall fail. Together, we shall succeed. May this memorial of the death of Jesus be the beginning of a new world order; one that rejects global policies of exploitation and crave for violence. May peace reign again in Somalia, Palestine, and all communities that suffer from violence. Enjoy!
NEITHER A COMMENDATION NOR A CRITICISM
The caption refers to the concluding part of the reflection of a Nigerian Anglican bishop (Ephraim Ikeakor), that trended on April 1, 2020. He railed against the restrictions on mass gathering in church building as part of the precautionary measures of containing the spread of COVID-19. Referring to possible reactions to his thought-provoking essay, he concluded: “keep your commendation and criticism to yourself.”
So, the following words are neither a commendation nor a criticism. This is just a couple of random observations about some general reactions concerning acquiescence to the civil authorities’ order of banning mass gathering of people, and the stay-at-home directives, except of “those on essential services”.
April 2, 2020
THE CHURCH IN AFRICA AS A CHANNEL OF HOPE AMIDST THE COVID – 19 EPIDEMIC
How should Churches handle COVID-19? That is the question congregations around Africa are grappling with as the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Throughout the call for global response and relief efforts, volunteers from various levels of clinical health and research institutes are working around the clock, with the hope that a coordinated global effort may quell the death toll. Amid these efforts, the spiritual or religious voices in Africa are detached and, in some cases, silent. According to the pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on Catholic Commitment to the Ebola Emergency Response in 2014 Stated: “The Church is present in local communities; does not come and go; people turn to the Lord in time of fear and need. The Church is a visible witness to the presence of Jesus Christ at all times but particularly at times of adversity. Through the centuries, the Church has worked to strengthen local communities so that people of all backgrounds could enjoy the dignity that God has instilled in each and every person and so that they might have life and have it to the full. In this regard, the Church is a trusted institution.”
For some, instead of inspiring action these staggering statistics of the confirmed corona virus cases in Africa and across the globe can have an opposite, numbing effect. Thus we comfort ourselves with words, constructing a religion of rituals and ideas. But the example Jesus modeled paints a different picture of the essence of sacrificial love: He met people where they were, unafraid to visit and even touch the most ostracized and feared individuals in His society — such as those suffering from leprosy, who were frequently sent off to live apart from mainstream society in colonies of the dying. Communities of faith are supposed to be about restoring lives broken by suffering and fear of the Corona Virus.
The following are practical ways we suggest that the Church in Africa with its local congregations can get involved in combating this deadly disease. First the main role of the Church at this time is to raise awareness… Corona Virus concerns everyone. Churches in the affected areas have to set up different points for hand-washing, provide people with masks and temperature checks, and also work alongside the humanitarian agencies involved in the crisis. The Churches too should provide psycho-social and pastoral counseling to the traumatized family members. Second is the need to set up programs to facilitate partnerships between Churches, local humanitarian organizations, government and the global community. Third Churches should encourage and empower medical personnel in their congregation who feel called to ‘donate’ their services to ending the epidemic and urge their congregations to financially support their efforts. Fourth is the Church’s role of reassuring their congregation: Churches should over communicate to their churches the steps they are taking, reassuring them that they are staying informed, thinking ahead, and that you will communicate as things change. Fifth the Churches in Africa in collaboration with government should as well support the over-stretched health-care providers. This can be done through accompaniment and more resources in the support and services so that they are able to function in feasible and practical ways under these trying circumstances. Finally while the Churches may not be able to confront the medical complexities of this global pandemic, they are uniquely poised to comfort the personal challenges of a panicked people with the hope and promises of God’s Word. We as churches and communities are called to pray for and practice appropriate preventive measures in communities; cooperate with the health workers and public health officials; and support and advocate for the rapid development of necessary treatments and vaccines.
Teresa Kiragu, (Sr) ASN.
Dear Teresia Kiragu,
I like your piece on how the Church in Africa can be a channel of hope in practical ways.I know many priests are writing to me to say – I say mass every day alone in my ‘home’ and I appreciate this. But this needs to be complemented with action particularity as we prepare for a worse situation. We haven’t gone into complete lock down yet, and I don’t know what is happening in other countries, but in Kenya, many people are already begging for food. What will happen if we have to go to complete lock down? Can the church mobilize the faithful to prepare for this?
I don’t want to be bashing the Church becasue I am part of that Church, but I haven’t seen the Church leadership in Kenya either at the local or at the national level in public over the last few weeks. The leadership seems to have been paralyzed and have withdrawn into their homes like every body else. But they cannot afford to be like every one else. Yes. They too must isolate and practice social distancing. But even then, there is a lot the church can do to mobilise resources and serve those who are adversely affected by COVID – or merely challenge the faithful to share. This is an opportune moment for the Church to act and show solidarity with the poor.
Thanks, Kiragu for your post. I wonder what you think of President Trump defunding the WHO? What should the church do when leaders like Trump supported by many churches in America makes this kind of move? This is what I wrote about it:
President Trump cannot do this!!!!
Suspending funding to the WHO at this critical time is a very foolish and destructive decision. The WHO may have its own weaknesses, but it is needed at this point in time to help coordinate the global effort to suppress and mitigate this pandemic.
Suspending funding to the WHO is only an empty and diversionary grandstanding by President Trump, who has failed to take responsibility for the failings of his administration in responding early and promptly to this pandemic. He misled the American people by calling Covid-19 a hoax, and failed to accept the scientific evidence about the disease, and continues to downplay its ravaging effects on the populace.
It is disgraceful having to watch a President using the daily briefing on the pandemic for propaganda, electioneering campaign, and for settling scores with journalists who hold him accountable.
Rather than bringing comfort to the dying, the bereaved, the sick, and the wearied frontline workers, and a troubled nation, we have a president who is obsessed with his tv ratings, and who thinks that you win arguments with falsehood, anger tantrums, stewed in convulsive rhetorics and bullish militancy.
There is something to be admired in a leader who is humble, who shows empathy, whose words touch the heart, who speaks the truth in love, and who accepts responsibility for his or her mistakes, and is honest, gentle, merciful, forgiving, and kind. Life is not all about winning at all costs!!!
Covid-19 is decimating our world, and here in Chicago, to use Oprah’s term, it is ‘taking out our people’-Blacks.
No one is safe until all of us are safe, and all of us die when anyone dies, and we are all sick when any one of us is sick. We all share a common human origin and a common human future; we are tied in the same robe of destiny and we must come together as one family. At this time, we need leaders who embody this fellow-feeling as the foundation of their service and leadership.
We have an unfolding health emergency, but President Trump thinks it is an economic emergency. The question is: Who will enjoy Trump’s imaginary future of economic boom, in the graveyard? May God grant wisdom to our leaders, and help the world to build the kind of international solidarity which is sorely needed NOW. Defunding WHO is a very bad idea and the president should not play this kind of politics which risks the lives of people here and in other parts of the world.
The growing campaign against the World Health Organisation (WHO) centres on the accusation that WHO did not inform the world on time, and that WHO kowtowed to China in covering up what has now become the worst pandemic since the 1918/19 Spanish flu. Hence, WHO is China-centric. President Donald Trump made this accusation public during a press briefing on April 7, 2020. Trump’s supporters have followed suit by some fringe fellows, like one Kenny in a video clip aired on April 8, 2020. Finally, on April 14, 2020, President Trump doubled down on his threat and announced USA’s suspension of its funding to WHO because it failed in its basic duty and needed to be held accountable.
For a critical follower of the COVID-19 developments, this campaign falls flat on its face; but it will not go away soon. I argue that the target of this campaign is the Director General, Ethiopian Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, because of some of his utterances recently. I will get back to this. Let’s begin with the facts that interrogate Trump’s vituperations.
Trump repeatedly praised China’s handling of the coronavirus between January and February 2020; and Mr Trump did not single out WHO for criticism for being China-centric, and for failing in its basic duties.
1. Trump’s Tweet (24-01-20): “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”
2. Trump’s Statement (18-02-20): Xi is doing “a very good job with a very, very tough situation.”
3. Trump’s Statement (23-02-20): “I think he’s (President Xi) doing a very good job. It’s a big problem. But President Xi loves his country. He’s working very hard to solve the problem and he will solve the problem.”
4. Trump’s Statement (29-02-20): “He (President Xi) wanted this to get out and finished and be done. He worked — he’s been working very, very hard, I can tell you that. And they’re making a lot of progress in China.”
Trump’s 180° Change: Trump changed his tune in March, in reaction to a conspiracy theory promoted by a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman that the US brought coronavirus to China during a military games at Wuhan in October 2019. *From then on, Trump started referring to the virus as the “Chinese virus.”*
On April 1, 2020, two French scientists (Jean-Paul Mira and Camille Locht) spoke on the French television channel, LCI, that COVID-19 vaccine at the trial phase should be tested in Africa “where there are no masks, no treatment or intensive care, a little bit like it’s been done for certain AIDS studies, where among prostitutes, we try things, because we know that they are highly exposed and don’t protect themselves” ( https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/racism-row-french-doctors-suggest-virus-vaccine-test-africa-200404054304466.html ).
During a press briefing on April 6, 2020, reporters asked Ghebreyesus of WHO’s response to Drs Mira and Locht. Ghebreyesus, Ethiopia’s former minister of health, and foreign affairs, could not hide his disgust. “To be honest, I was so appalled and it was a time when I said, when we needed solidarity these kind (sic) of racist remarks actually would not help, it goes against the solidarity. Africa cannot and will not be a testing ground for any vaccine. We will follow all the rules to test any vaccine or therapeutics all over the world using exactly the same rules. Whether it’s in Europe, Africa or wherever we will use the same protocol and if there is a need to be tested elsewhere to treat human beings the same way, equally. The hangover from a colonial mentality has to stop — and WHO will not allow this to happen. It was a disgrace actually and appalling to hear during the 21st century from scientists that kind of remark and we condemn this in the strongest terms possible but we assure you that this will not happen in Africa and will not happen elsewhere, in any country. Proper protocols will be followed and human beings will be treated as human beings because we’re all human beings” ( https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/transcripts/who-audio-emergencies-coronavirus-press-conference-full-06apr2020-final.pdf?sfvrsn=7753b813_2 ).
Effectively, Ghebreyesus stopped any possibility of using Africans as guinea pigs for a vaccine, which the West so desperately needs to offer them hope of getting their life back. Is it by coincidence that the day after Ghebreyesus’ strong words against perceived Western racism, Donald Trump accused WHO of being China-centric, and not doing enough to warn the world of the seriousness of the novel coronavirus 2019? Did Donald Trump just know of WHO’s alleged ‘compromise’? Why did he not mention this all along?
Ghebreyesus knew that Trump’s accusation was part of ongoing personal attacks on him, which started with Taiwan, three months earlier. On April 8, 2020, at another press briefing, Ghebreyesus responded in part to the overall tenor of Trump’s accusation: “I can tell you of personal attacks that have been going on for more than two or three months; abuses or racist comments, calling me names; black or negro. I’m proud of being black or proud of being negro (sic) because that negro is black; black is black and I’m proud; I don’t care, to be honest. Thank you for asking that question. Maybe for the first time I would make this public; even death threats. I don’t give a damn because it’s personally targeted to me; three months in the same situation. What makes me sad is – I said it last presser – when the whole black community was insulted, when Africa was insulted, then I don’t tolerate it, then I said, people are crossing the line. When it’s personal, even death threats, I didn’t care, I didn’t even respond.” ( https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/transcripts/who-audio-emergencies-coronavirus-press-conference-full-08apr2020.pdf?sfvrsn=267145f5_2 )
On May 23, 2017, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus was elected as WHO’s Director-General for a five-year term by WHO Member States. Three candidates made the cut for the post of DG. Ethiopia’s Ghebreyesus, Pakistan’s Sania Nishtar, and Britain’s David Nabarro. Of the three candidates, one can easily guess United States’ preferred candidate for the post of WHO’s DG. China supported Ghebreyesus’ candidacy. Nabarro’s group engaged in some smear campaigns against Ghebreyesus leading up to the vote. At some point, Ghebreyesus had to respond: “Nabarro’s supporters have a ‘typical colonial mind-set aimed at winning at any cost and discrediting a candidate from a developing country’” ( https://time.com/4790283/world-health-organization-director-tedros-adhanom-ghebreyesus/ ). Does this sound familiar? Old fights don’t die. ‘Everything passes except the past.’
Before we jump to conclusions, our duty as pastors, as leaders of thought, and as opinion shapers, is to read not just the text. We should read in-between the text, and the sub-text, because in international politics, the more you look the less you see, except what they impose on your optic horizon.
Raymond ’Sesan Aina, MSP
The National Missionary Seminary of St Paul (NAMISEM),
Gwagwalada – Abuja
April 15, 2020