During this time of the covid-19 pandemic, the world has experienced much suffering and the harmful consequences of this crisis, health as well as economic consequences, will continue to be felt during the coming months and years.
Unfortunately, it is expected that human development rates will decrease as will the Gross Domestic Product of many nations. At the same time the number of deaths and poverty will increase. This is a terrible reality, one that we never imagined we would experience.
Nevertheless, the coronavirus is not the only pandemic that we have to confront together. In the midst of humankind, “social diseases” are multiplying and “spiritual diseases” are also spreading. In order to confront these “diseases” we will need world unity in the same way that we are seeing this with covid-19.
Each year there are six million abortions (pandemic of death). Every day some 820 million people do not receive adequate food (pandemic of hunger). Of the eight billion inhabitants of this planet earth, some seven billion do not know Christ (spiritual pandemic). The number of people unemployed worldwide is two hundred fifty million (unemployment pandemic). Young people are involved in various addictions (drug pandemic). One million people commit suicide every year (pandemic of hopelessness). There are more than seventy million refugees worldwide (pandemic of vulnerability). There are countries where basic sanitation reaches only ten percent of the households (health pandemic). The media transmits false news and disinformation (media pandemic). Millions of people live alone, with no family and with no hope (pandemic of loneliness).
These are some of the terrifying pandemics that we must face with the same strength, determination, dedication and seriousness. Do politicians, the press and civil society experience the same repugnance with regard to these other pandemics? Is there, in fact, an assumed “global union” to confront these other social ills? Will people be insensitive to this sad reality? Perhaps the world awakened to covid-19 because it is a disease that has affected everyone, while the other ailments are harmful only to the poorest.
Throughout history, the members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul have attempted to give witness to charity, struggling against the social pandemics referenced above. For example, at the time of the establishment of the first Conference, France was in the midst of a distressing cholera epidemic. Blessed Frederic Ozanam, one of the seven founders, is considered to be the precursor of the Church’s Social Doctrine … providing a Christian justice perspective to the challenges that confront men and women.
I believe that the current crisis is quite serious and needs to be confronted with urgency and in a responsible manner. People need to put aside their political and ideological differences and unite. That is the only way in which we will be able to put an end to these other pandemics, equally disastrous, that are a part of our life … and yet, it is possible that these “diseases” have already produced “antibodies of insensitivity”.
Will we remain impassive, apathetic and indifferent? Will we find the strength to engage in this struggle? Will we, like the Levite, see and pass by on the opposite side of the road (Luke 10:32)?
We, as members of the worldwide Vincentian Family, are active in the Church and in civil society and as such we ought to do this in a strategic, responsible and exemplary manner. Indeed, our task is to point out the injustices against the dignity of the children of God and then, engage in the struggle to change those situations. The anger and rebellion of Jesus when he was in the Temple (Matthew 11:15-18) should also be reflected in our own indignation. “Political correctness” should give way to “evangelical justice”.
Therefore, let us denounce — clearly and fearlessly, with love and respect — the social inequalities that wreak so much havoc in our midst. May the bonds of empathy and solidarity be strengthened among us.