India’s 21 days of lock-down is extended till 3rd May. The pandemic is having a dance of death all over the world. The most powerful, so called developed nations, are staring frightfully at the tiny invisible COVID-19 virus and its onslaught. Many countries have declared strict lockouts, and life outside came to a standstill. Upsetting uncertainties are the order of the day. Peoples and countries are moving out of their comfort zones to face the reality of life. There is fear, despair and helplessness all around.
This is a very different time for us. Humanity is confined inside. For humanity, hastily, the whole world became like a zoo! Prior to Corona virus appeared on the scene, we, humans were thinking that we are in control of everything. We are the masters of all. We built castles of imaginary comfort zones. We invented sophisticated, lethal weapons of destruction. We fought wars, killed so many millions of our fellow beings. We exploited the nature, destroyed the earth, vandalized the natural resources, oppressed the poor, the weak and the marginalized. There was a longer period of spiritual degeneration among us. Mistakenly we thought and behaved as if we are the owners of this world. While some of our Utopian, self-centered, rulers of the nations were still engaged in selling and buying lethal weapons to pounce on others, a tiny, invisible virus took total control of the world so effortlessly and so unpredictably.COVID-19 made the world in panic.
What we see today everywhere is closed, silent, empty streets; no flight, road or sea travel. Birds and animals might be wondering what happened to the human beings! One will not find people hurrying for work or political and religious leaders addressing the crowd. People in general are in despair. Many lost their jobs, many lost their members in the family. Millions of migrant labourers and homeless people are faced with imminent starvation and emotional hitches. The entire society is going through a psychological depression due to CORONA VIRUS.
It is a difficult time for us; people are suffering. In India thousands of daily wagers and migrant workers are stranded at different places, unable to move towards their places. We have been witnessing their plight. We saw it a few days ago in Bandra, Mumbai and in Delhi. Any person with a heart will understand the plight and pain of these marginalized people. Along with govt. agencies, NGOs and religious organisations and schools are helping the people in whatever way possible. How long it will go like this is again uncertain, due to the increase of affected people in India.
I think, the reality is there for all of us to see. However, it is also an invitation for us to look within and see the wrong priorities we had set up for us. We must rectify them. Many times we had been thinking that we are powerful, we can manage ourselves, we are strong, we are independent and by accumulating wealth by any means we become more powerful etc. Many thought money and wealth are enough for a happy life. When things were normal we thought it was from our strength and ability. We have normalized greed, iniquity, injustice and individualism. There is no qualm of any sin or no concern for the next door neighbour. I, Me and Myself was the philosophy largely people followed. Hedonism and self-centeredness made the criterion for modern values! The negative attitudes and values are viruses and we have them in plenty in us. We forgot that what we achieved was a grace from God and our real power rests in His hands.
It was a tiny virus, CORONA, that made the world to a standstill. In front of it the rulers and ruled equally surrender. Corona Pandemic does prove that it has no boundary, no distinction on religion, caste, colour, ethnicity, language or gender. It does not leave the rich or the powerful. The mighty missiles and nuclear weapons are proved to be inept in front of COVID-19. The so called mighty rulers are trembling before the unseen Corona virus. It is said that in order to shape we need to be shaken. Corona shook us all, and we must shape our humanity now.
Our religions became a set organisations that stressed more on rituals, customs, traditions and practices rather than preaching love, forgiveness, compassion and humaneness to people. We talk about “Vasudaiva kudumbakam”, “Tat Tva masi”, and “all are God’s children” etc. but teach hating the other and fight against other religions. We have seen it enough all over. Corona reminds us of our needed oneness, and need for a united effort from all.
I strongly believe it is a time for us to have an introspection; individually and collectively. It is an invitation to all of us to look at our attitudes and priorities and rectify the wrongs. Many people had no time for themselves or for their families and communities, they were too busy to make money. Now is the period to spend time with all in the family. The lock down can be a time of blessing. It gives enough time to reflect on our interdependence and inter connectedness. Many things we take in life for granted. It is a time to listen where the Spirit is leading us to. It is a time of hope for a new world order where something beautiful will come out after the suffering experience. The Easter experience tells us that suffering is not the end. There is Easter glory after the passion and death. We must set things right and put things in order. We must die to our selfishness, pride, jealousy, hatred, unhealthy competitions, communal and religious hatred, caste divisions and all negativities.
It is a time for us to be thankful to God. We should never take things for granted; even little things. We must abandon the harmful ways of thinking. Learn to appreciate things. As we wash our hands with sanitizer, let us wash and sanitize our negativities. We are all one among the many creatures on this planet. The earth belongs to all. As we keep social distance for the good of the public, let us always look for the good of others. As we appreciate the frontline health workers at this juncture, let us learn to appreciate all those work for the society at all levels. Use this time to appreciate each other in the families and listen to each other. Let us also appreciate the nature, the trees, plants, birds and animals. Let us hope for a better, harmonious, loving, and caring post Corona era soon. Yes, Corona virus must challenge us the way we look at things.
(Sunny Jacob SJ is the Secretary, Jesuit Education South Asia (JEA), Member International Commission for Jesuit Education (ICAJE) and National Adviser of Jesuit Alumni Association of India (JAAI). His email is firstname.lastname@example.org)