The year 2020 is one that has left the entire humanity with many bitter feelings. Many have wished that the clock could tick counter clockwise. Perhaps if this were possible, we wouldn’t have been where we are now amidst the present challenges. With few seconds left for 2019 to gradually wind down, the usual euphoria of welcoming the New Year with fireworks and other forms of entertainment went unabated as everyone anticipated a 2020 that would usher in a robust economy, solidarity by world leaders in the fight against poverty, hunger and disease; cessation of hostility by warring armed groups and an appreciable response to the call by the Holy Father, Pope Francis to preserve our common home- the earth, as presented in his Encyclical Laudato Si’.
Today, all these have simply become a mirage given the scourge that the global pandemic, Covid-19 (commonly known as coronavirus), has inflicted on the world. As the Psalmist says: The foundations of law and order have collapsed. What can the righteous do? (Ps. 11:3). Can there be any way out in light of all that has been created by present circumstances?
Among all the creatures of God, none can be said to be more favoured than humankind. Having spent much time in bringing into existence all we see in our environment, God found it was very good and entrusted creation to humankind in order that people might care for it (Gen. 1:25-31; 2:15). We can vividly see here the special dignity which God conferred on the human person at the time of creation. This shows us the immense dignity of each person, who is not just something, but someone (Laudato Si’, 65). There can be no better way of communicating this message than the following Biblical expression: Yet you have made them little less than a god; with glory and honour you crowned them, gave them power over the work of your hand, put all things under their feet (Ps. 8:5-6).
One may ask, what are the things that God has put under the feet of humankind? They are the earth, animals, trees, mountains and hills, grass, insects, oil, gas, water and other natural resources that are found beneath the earth. Hence, the human person, as a creature of God, has a special vocation to care and preserve the ecosystem, and not to destroy it or be apathetic. Men and women must be able to hand over this universe to future generations. The global solidarity in response to the Covid-19 pandemic can be seen as a positive step towards this goal. Many more lives would have been lost had each person decided to shut his door to his neighbour. We are thus left with a common awareness: we are called more than ever before to lend helping hand to our brothers and sisters in need.
As we celebrate the 5th anniversary of Laudato Si’, there arises the need to look inward and reflect on the manner in which the multinational corporations have become involved in drilling, mining and logging operations and as a result have also become responsible for polluting the air, water and land pollution as well as causing other forms of environmental degradation which have increased poverty (which in turn has led to migration…). These situation demand a collective response since the deterioration of the environment and of the society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet…everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest (Laudato Si’, 48).
The Covid-19 pandemic is just one of the many causes of the death that is suffered in the world, but especially in developing countries. World leaders have revealed ‘our interconnectedness’ by their aggressive response to tackle the pandemic in a manner they showed solidarity with one another, especially to developing countries through providing medical personnel and equipment as well as financial support. That same solidarity is also being expressed by religious groups, individuals, agencies and organizations. This shows there is light at the end of the tunnel. All hands therefore must be on deck in the spirit of Laudato Si’, to stem the rising tide of factors that depict the human person as a tyrannical anthropocentric individual who IS unconcerned about other creatures.
Fr. Joachin U. Nwaorgu, CM
Province of Nigeria