As a Colombian, I am familiar with the strategies used to cope with crisis. In a country with a daily news diet of towns destroyed by the armed conflict, bombs exploding in cities and frequent kidnappings, we have learned how to ignore that reality and move on with our lives…until a relative or a close friend becomes one of the victims.
Now, despite the growing impact of COVID-19, we are tempted to avoid this reality. And it is understandable. News and media speak about the virus all time. Online conversations raise the topic, and financial consequences make this crisis something we want to escape from. If you are like me, you may feel tired of this new “never-ending crisis.”
However, escapism is not what the church perceives as its call in the face of suffering. God invites us to face the crisis, and—in compassion—walk with those who suffer. That was how the early church responded when they faced the pandemics of their time. In the midst of confusion they offered hope, choosing empathy over self-interest, faith over fear, pastoral care over isolation. Their response was one of compassion.
The impact of COVID-19 has been immense even in countries that have resources and health infrastructure. Yet governments in many of these countries have the capacity to offer subsidies, credits and unemployment insurance to those affected by the financial crisis.
Considering how great an impact the crisis has made in these well-resourced countries, I cannot image what the impact will be in the Global South. The spread of COVID-19 through countries already devastated by armed conflict, internal displacement, and a lack of health infrastructure and financial capacity may push many of them close to a generalized annihilation.
In those contexts, many congregations live and work as front-line responders to crisis. Their work includes providing pastoral care and counseling to the fearful, the sick and the dying; giving medical care, livelihood support, and similar practical actions. These churches need the support of a global church. In the coming days, the Global South requires a coordinated strategy that potentializes the support in a sustainable way.
COVID-19 has no borders. The only way to end this pandemic is with global cooperation. The only valid response from a global church is one of interdependent compassion. May we respond today as our forebears of the early church did.
César García, appointed as General Secretary of the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) in 2012, is the first leader from the Global South to serve in this position. MWC membership includes 107 Mennonite and Brethren in Christ national churches from 58 countries representing 1.47 million baptized members and 10,000 congregations.