First and foremost, Happy Thanksgiving to all in the United States. A very unique Thanksgiving.
Because of the spread of Covid-19 more than 47% of people who were supposed to travel to be reunited with their family did cancel their trip and opt for a virtual celebration. Our heart and prayers go out to those who lost a loved one stricken by the virus. Their loved one was certainly missing at thanksgiving dinner. This is heartbreaking. Our prayers are also for those who are sick in the hospital because of the pandemic or other disease.
Sadly, more than 255.000 deaths reported in the United States and more than 1.350.000 around the globe. Those are huge numbers .
Covid-19 is definitely common to all faiths and to all human beings.
THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF COVID-19
We were minding our own business and all of a sudden 10 months ago a disruptive and deadly guest introduced himself in our midst going from North to South, East to West of planet earth without segregating but convincingly metamorphosing our lives.
1. Covid-19 is antithetic to our normal behavior
-For example, who are used to visit people whom we love dearly especially our family members. The more we were with them the more we were able to express our love and affection. With Covid-19 the more we love our elderly parents the more we have to stay away from them because they are at risk. This is weird, painful and absolutely damaging to relationship.
-Even governments had to step into our lives; here in the United States we had stay-at-home orders and curfews. In Europe, Africa, all over the world something similar occurred. In Canada some places have even restrictions related to the number of persons who can be in a household at the same time: 6 is the number. If you are a family of three you can receive only three persons at a time. For example, you have a sibling visiting with his wife and child, if you have more than one sibling, they have to queue in order to come to your place.
-At this point most of us have been affected by Covid-19. We know someone who had Covid, friends or family members. I have two nieces’ physicians at the forefront who contracted the virus and were sick for sometimes fortunately they are okay but other extended family members in different parts of the world died from the virus.
-The worst-case scenario that had happened all over the world; have a loved one in the hospital stricken with Covid-19 and not been able to stay with him or her. So many passed away without having someone by their side or being able to say good bye.
2. With Covid-19 we run the risk of dehumanization of our society.
We have to stay six feet apart from other people because we represent a danger to one another. Our most faithful companion is a mask. Our mouths are muzzled like evil dogs, we just missing a sign “beware of the dog”. It is not like in a Halloween party wearing a mask for a couple of hours and it’s over. We need to keep our mask in public all the time because this is the only way to protect our self and to protect others, the only way to stop spreading the disease.
What a powerful statement Covid-19 is making into our daily life!
DO WE NEED TO LEARN FROM THESE CIRCUMSTANCES OR SHOULD WE DESCEND INTO AN ABYSS OF DESPAIR?
1. Is Covid-19 a teaching tool ?
-It is obvious that it’s indeed a teaching tool. This is one more reason for us to understand that things cannot go only the way we wish or plan. So many factors are beyond our control
-A myriad of individuals have lost their job and found themselves and their family in a precarious situation. Long lines are noticed at Food Banks across our country especially prior to Thanksgiving. This a good time for awareness of the feeling of others, how it feels to be deprived of something, to suffer from hunger. We realize the importance of actually appreciating things we were taking for granted.
-Number of small businesses filed for bankruptcy.
-Numerous persons we trapped in a country without money, having their life in limbo because of borders closure. Some family members who came here for a two weeks visit were grounded for five months.
-Virtual communications and home working policies are great, but it put some stress among population who live in a cramped house with children getting half time online classes.
-The pandemic has impacted the emotional development of our youth; social isolation is imposed on them. They faced disrupted education and uncertainty about the future. They missed terribly social events, spending times with friends, going to concerts, sports and physical activities. It’s indeed a very challenging time for them because unlike the youth who lived through the great depression they are not used to hardships.
Covid-19 has definitely taken a psychological toll on people of all ages and it is sometimes hard to finding ways to cope with that stress.
2. Should we descend into an abyss of despair?
-If we are struggling or feel overwhelmed or seem to have no strength, we can’t stay on the edge any longer when we think that what is in front of us is nothing but darkness and despair.
A very wise man, late President Houphouët-Boigny, the first president of Côte d’Ivoire, a small country in west Africa, used to say; “When there is no human solution to a problem, there is certainly a divine one”.
Changing our perspective and looking to the spiritual isn’t always easy.
WHAT DO RELIGIONS TEACH US
1. From a Buddhist perspective
We need working with our fear and anxiety and accept the world the way it is. Thinking that things should be otherwise adds unnecessary suffering. Nonetheless, Buddha recommends Meditation:
“………If you meditate earnestly, through spiritual disciplines you can make an island for yourself that no flood can overwhelm” from Dhammapada chapter 2.
(The Dhammapada is the Buddha’s path to wisdom).
Let’s consider the Abrahamic faiths
2. In the Jewish Faith
We are in good company because we are not the only one falling sometimes into despair. Even Moses fell into despair and complained to God :
“I cannot carry this whole people on my own. It is too heavy for me. If this is what you are doing to me, then, If I have found favor in your eyes, kill me now and let me not look upon this my evil” (Number 11; 14-15) God then comforted him. The Torah stresses that God cares about us ,he has made a covenant with humanity and further a covenant with the people he chose to be a living example of faith, thus we should not be hopeless, we should count on him, He will respond.
3. In the Islamic Faith
One of the most important characteristics is that a Muslim must remain in a positive state of mind whatever the circumstances bring. The belief is that Allah the Almighty is Creator of all things, the faithful knows that any trial times he finds himself in, are a God-sent test. He takes in his stride recalling what Allah has advised him “……It may be that you hate something when it is good for you and it may be that you love something when it is bad for you. Allah knows and you do not know. “, from the Holy Qur’an Surah Al Baqarah verse 216.
In any circumstances Allah is always near: from the same Surah AL Baqarah, verse 214: “Do you think, you will enter paradise without such trials as came to those who passed away before you? They experienced suffering and adversity and were so shaken in spirit that even the Prophet and the faithful who were with him cried “when will Allah’s help come? Ah verily the help of Allah is near” “
They always remember Surah ASH-SHAR, 5 and 6: “So verily with every difficulty there is a relief”. Therefore, they always turn to Allah for help.
4. For Christians
In the Gospel there are countless reminders of God’s loving presence in difficult times, we just have to turn to him; Matthew recalls us:
“Ask and it will be given to you; search and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. Everyone who ask receives; everyone who searches finds, everyone who knocks will have the door opened. Is there anyone among you who would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or would hand him a snake when he asked for a fish? If you, then evil as you are know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your father in heaven give good things to those who ask him”, Matthew 7,7-11.
The path is clear, we shouldn’t despair, people of all faiths need to continue to be united in prayer here in the United States and around the world. The Almighty will respond to our collection of prayers and rid us of Covid-19: “Help is near”.
In the meantime, let’s not waste a minute, let’s enjoy some quality time with family members in our household.
I would like to conclude with a quote from my Husband Ambassador Ghoulem Berrah’s book, Our Common Faith, a plea for interfaith harmony. The quote is related to our interfaith pilgrimage to Jerusalem, an illustration of collective prayers.
“During the Muslim call to prayer, we could also hear the Christian procession praying loudly as, en route to the Holy Sepulchre they made their way past the Al-Aqsa Mosk while at the same time, the Jews prayed at the Wailing wall. Together, all prayers of the various faiths, emanating in unison, rose toward the sky. A sign of our common faith in one unique God”.