Facing the fact of COVID-19 and its Subsequent Lockdown
From March to June 2020, majority of African countries have been on total lockdown, whose consequences shall haunt our modus operandi for many years to come. In the midst of such setbacks, Jesuit Urumuri Centre has not been indifferent to the contemporary social calamity. The Centre has provided considerable reflection materials to accompany the public in discerning the best manner in which they could survive the crisis as members of a human community. Beside the ideas for formation of conscience, Jesuit Urumuri Centre has also shared with the poor a good amount of livelihoods to help them survive the hard times wrought by the outbreak of COVID-19.
Below is a brief recap of the journey traveled so far by the Centre:
JUC Social Proximity Blog Series
1) You all know of the famous phrase “Social Distancing” that has come to the limelight during the outbreak of COVID-19. For about one and half months or so, JUC sought to contribute with a weekly blog counteracting the essence of that terminology.
Our stand was that we shouldn’t really be promoting “social distancing” in times of struggle and despair. The notion of “Social Distancing” per se does not evoke a value to be proud of; in fact it distorts the fundamental element of human existence, which is interconnection. At this point in time, the world needed unity and solidarity more than ever before. Informed by the Catholic Social Teaching, JUC was persuaded to search for the avenues through which what we should rather call “physical distancing” could be upheld without failing to respond to the call of solidarity that defines our very being as Christians and human species.
The blog series has served to accompany and bring hope to those infected or affected by COVID-19, and to inform the public of their responsibility to care for their neighbors.
2) For the start, JUC tried to examine “The Place of Individual Responsibility in the Safeguard of the Common Good.” This was informed by the belief that we cannot have concern for the common good, if we are not socially open to our common reality. As such social distancing risked robbing us of the consciousness of the creed which asserts that “we belong to each other”. In as much as we practice physical distancing, we should not forget that we have the responsibility to worry, care, and show empathy toward our community. And this requires of us real proximity towards one another.
3) While the whole world battled the menace of COVID-19, JUC was convinced that the unequal share of the world’s wealth should challenge every nation and every citizen to look around and check on their neighbors. Notions of the preferential option for the poor and the universal destination of goods dominated our conversations to alert the public of the urgent need to share with the hungry.
4) The outbreak of COVID-19 has also demystified the dynamics of global economy. JUC reflections have sought to dig deeper to bring to light what global institutions are doing, what they have done, what they should have done and what they are supposed to do in the coming days.
The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the weaknesses of our model of globalization since it proved us vulnerable to the demise of our partner nations around the world. It was necessary to interrogate our economic systems as well by asking ourselves whether it wasn’t in order to decentralize our economies (principle of subsidiarity) before we internationalize it.
5) To conclude the series, JUC has sought to examine the role of political arrangements in keeping citizens all over the world safe. The notion of global governance is key in imagining the world post COVID-19. The principle of subsidiarity also takes a central place in the discussion to just understand the task we have in negotiating future alliances and prioritizing our developmental agenda.
Emergency Food Supply and Rental Fee Settlement
For the past three months, JUC has also been in regular touch with families who have been hit hardest by the crisis of COVID-19. In total, about 170 families have been reached out to, through which around 1,200 individuals were spared from going at least a day without putting food on the table. Of the 170 families also about 50 families have gotten support to settle rental arrears incurred during the period of lockdown and job scarcity.
While the lockdown measures have been largely relaxed, their effects are still in force. Some businesses still struggle to pick up while others are yet to fully open their doors. In such a context, hunger and despair continue to dominate a good section of the population. There are still some good deeds to be done and real needs are still at our doorsteps. Jesuit Urumuri Centre hopes for the better, while in the meanwhile it continues to discern how best it can accompany the vulnerable ones who struggle to adjust to the new normal that is slowing unfolding in the horizons.
Fr. Patrice Ndayisenga, SJ