.Sober Voices Speak to a Wounded World
The need for sober voices and clear minds has never been more important than in this darkest of hours which cries out for decisive leadership on different fronts. In this in-between period when there is a temptation “to go back to business as usual” because of our collective impatience in the face of economies in shambles that we need to take a strong stand, based on science and driven by data.
To put a stop not only to the further spread of an invisible virus but its resurgence, leaders and citizens alike have to hold the line, and demonstrate both strength and wisdom. Otherwise, ignorance and indecision that we now witness even in high places will begin to break our spirit.
It is for this reason that we need wise counsel from unimpeachable sources who will strengthen our resolve and ensure that we harness all our resources and galvanize our common efforts till the end, since we must.
It is for this reason why the voice of a man with the stature of Pope Francis resonated and encouraged people of different faiths across the seas during the critical period that coincided with Easter week.
As millions watched on their screens on the holiest of all Christian feasts and as a wounded world suffered from a devastating lockdown of nearly two-thirds of its population, Pope Francis in his Easter message “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the City and the World”) made a stirring appeal for global solidarity not only to continue to combat the contagion that has caused the loss of countless lives but to begin to envision a world beyond the pandemic that needs to be different if we are to survive.
Decisive Action on Different Fronts
Pope Francis called for an all-out effort to end the pandemic and at the same time an immediate ceasefire on all conflict fronts, debt relief if not debt forgiveness for the least developed countries, arms reduction and the production of more bread rather than guns. In brief, he mapped out a critical path that could enable a chastened world to emerge from an untenable situation to one that is re-directed to a fairer and more stable direction.
The first Jesuit Pope reiterated the need for decisive action on humanitarian crises on different fronts from Syria, Iraq and Lebanon in the Middle East. He mentioned the tragic flow of refugees streaming through the borders of Greece and Turkey, not to mention the island of Lesbos in Italy, the long-simmering conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Israeli-Palestinian divide, and the stalemate in Venezuela as issues that need urgently to be addressed.
It has been made clear by medical experts and epidemiologists that the only way to push back decisively against the coronavirus pandemic was through a global effort that required considerable cooperation between different leaders in the world combined with the resources of private corporation, the knowledge brought to the table by medical research teams developing cures and vaccines, frontline practitioners , and the indomitable spirit of ordinary citizens on a scale never before seen in our times.
The Weakest Link
Yet, the apparent lack of global leadership seemed to be the weakest link in putting up our defenses against the contagion that had brought down nations to their knees one after another, starting with China, Italy, Spain, Iran and the United States, among the early casualties in the unforgiving onslaught of this dangerous respiratory disease.
Demonstrable and decisive leadership respected across the political spectrum has clearly been absent in this era of “country-first” presidents and prime ministers. What is patently needed today is a global outlook, and not a “me-first mentality”.
The Right to Hope
During the Easter Vigil Service the night before as he addressed a global audience, Pope Francis underscored the significance of the Resurrection in a world that was going through its passion causing thousands of deaths in its wake. He underlined the importance of the Resurrection event which he considered a turning point in history for in a sense it allowed us to “acquire a fundamental right that can never be taken from us: the right to hope”.
And, now in his message to the city and the world, he reiterated that we must combat the deadly coronavirus contagion with a different strain that is transmitted instead from heart to heart which he called “the contagion of hope” that would turn back fear and allow us never to be afraid again.
Time to Reset Our Mind-Sets
When we finally emerge from this pandemic nightmare, it might be good to remember that perhaps this is an opportune time, a Kairos moment, for the world to push the re-set button and begin the process of changing our mind-sets in the areas that truly matter: our personal lives, our relationships, our ways of participating in governance, a more inclusive economy, a more healthful ecology, a more egalitarian society that could lead to a more peaceful future.
In that sense, we are on the threshold of another era – if and when we are able to question our previous priorities, and use this difficult period to think through the way we have organized the world without. The task is to transform life-threatening risks into opportunities for rebirth, reform and renewal that will us re-imagine our world beyond the pandemic to a create a future that our children deserve.