(PC: Shutter Stock)

Every era has its ills but no tragedy has shaken us before at least in the 21st century than the pandemic of COVID-19. With the advancements of technology and science we would have hoped to find a swift response to the pandemic. On the contrary, in the midst of this frightening and confusing situation, everyone has opted to retrieve back to themselves, becoming more and more self-centered as they pay heed to the popular rhetoric of the time: self-isolation and social distancing.

While self-isolation for protection against COVID-19 remains a noble thing to do, self-centeredness would be a serious threat to our human survival. This is not so much about closing borders between countries or limitation of people’s movements but rather the closing of our hearts to one another or the lack of care for the most vulnerable. We all share the moral duty to protect ourselves individually and collectively. And more importantly, in times of adversities, we are also called to turn to God and trust in the one who is the ultimate protector and savior (Mic 7:7).

We should not underestimate that human beings are in absolute need of one another in order to survive. Across the globe, let alone on our continent of Africa, many people live on hand to month daily earnings. Others totally depend on their kinsmen. Unbridled social distancing risks compromising the very fabric of our existential dynamics. Beyond leaving everything to chance and for the fear that social distancing ends up allowing for the survival of the fittest, our common responsibility today compels us to care for our hungry brother or sister and our unemployed neighbor and our homeless acquaintance.

In the Gospel of Matthew 25: 31- 45, Jesus reminds us that the criteria for our judgement at the end of times will be how we have loved and cared for the destitute among us. We need social co-responsibility to prevent the spread of COVID-19, social empathy towards the afflicted and social safeguarding for the most vulnerable in society. Let’s just hope and pray that every individual heed the call, and come to the help of their fellow human beings who are far and near.

Fr. Felix Barutwanayo, SJ