Embracing our Common Humanity at a time of Global Pandemic

Image Source: Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness

The fact that novel coronavirus has struck too long has already let in fatigue in our battle against the devastation that it has brought about. Our health professionals are overworked.  Our health infrastructure is found to be inadequate.  Our governments are found confused. In a very real way, coronavirus has done an autopsy over our dying socio-economic-political as well as religious system.  For us Catholics, it reminds us of the exile of the people of God in the Old Testament, where they did not have the temple and their priests to reach out to offer sacrifice to the God of the covenant. Everything seems to have come to stand still the way the people of Israel felt in an alien land. The withdrawal of Jesus in the desert for forty days might also provide us with an insight into this time of great human distress.   To our Hindu brethren, the Corona time might remind us of the exile of their Lord Rama in the forest. Each religion might be able to find some way to understand and cope with the corona crises within its tradition. While the religious resources abound to help assist us to face the crises yet the lethal virus has produced defeatist surrender to it. People seem to have forgotten to maintain social distance and in several places begun to move without masks on their face. Several among us have forgotten the horrors of the lethal virus. 

Maybe the Babylonian captivity of the people of Israel might open a window at several levels over our plight today.  The city of Jerusalem along with the holy temple of God went up in flames at the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar II, the king of Babylon and the people of the city were taken to exile. Their tremendous sufferings and tribulations are immortalised in psalm 137 which sings “By the rivers of Babylon, we sat mourning and weeping when we remembered Zion.”  The psalm portrays an attempt to see the events of pain and destruction with spiritually sobered eyes.  Everyday day life continued under exile but it being a time of servitude and homelessness with no access to the temple as well as their priests became a time of loss of self. There were dangers of loss of faith and assimilation into an alien culture and adoption of Babylonian traditions. This is why the religiously zealous among them began to emphasize the observance of the Sabbath (Saturday as holy)  as a way to stay faithful to their Jewish identity.  Sabbath then became a day of contemplation, prayer and sacred rest. Some scholars point out that circumcision also grew in importance, (besides belief in Satan as an opponent of God, the rise of strict monotheism and belief in a hierarchy of angels) as it physically marked a Jew from the foreigners. At the same time, hope was nurtured that the holy remnant of Israel will rise from the grave of exile and return to rebuild the holy temple in Jerusalem. 

 The exile experience of  Israel in the Old Testament has become our experience at many levels under the global pandemic. The virus moves freely along every pathway and we are exiled in our place.  Indeed, we are locked in our homes with fear and trembling of an invisible enemy.   The shared humanity that we have forgotten so often is brought back in focus.  Our economic systems are dismantled and the rich and poor and the believers and the non-believers have all become vulnerable victims and vectors of the lethal virus.  It has shown to us that we humans are all connected. The truth of our ancient belief   Vasudhaiva  Kutumbakam ( the world is one human family) is vividly demonstrated by the virus.  It has faced us with the truth stated by the Koran which says, ‘if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole humanity.  This is why it is an eye-opening experience for humanity. It is teaching us that to be religious we have to be inter-religious. The inter-religious moment brought on to us is a moment that challenges us to intensely appreciate our common humanity in us and in others.  It is time to accept our fragile disoriented nature and reach out in love and service to the needy and suffering others.  Indeed,  the lethal virus has manifested our finitude and dependence on each other.  

There are lessons for us in the exilic experience of Israel.  The Jews found ways of saving their shared life in their traumatic experience.  The holy bible is a witness of this faith journey. Today the challenge is larger than the one faced by the Jews of exilic times.  It is time for a global conversion to our common humanity.  Faced with our predicament, we have no choice but to embrace the fragile humanity in us and every other human.  It does require a virus to bring humanity together but the imperative of the virus leaves us with no option. Yet we are still refusing to learn.  We have seen how the communal virus is more dangerous than coronavirus.  Some even try and profit from the pandemic without any sense of guilt. The imperative to be a religious Catholic or Hindu or Muslim or any other faith intersects with the imperative to be human in a face of a global pandemic. It is a challenge for Christian to accept every other human as brother and sister in the profound sense en Christo imperative. Each of us is challenged to trace a similar imperative in our faith traditions and rise to a global conversion that embraces our common humanity in each of us. 

 

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GREETINGS

Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao