Majority World Reflections on the Covid-19 Pandemic

Reflections during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Hear from believers around the world as they share from God’s Word and their experiences during this global challenge.

Praying for the Global Church

While Covid-19 is forcing those of us in the West to deal with circumstances we’ve never encountered before, believers around the world already know what it’s like to face devastating events and turn to God as their one true hope. As they have lifted us up with their prayers and stories of encouragement, let us now lift them up in prayer. Below are a few requests shared by pastors and leaders you’ve helped equip with Langham.

Colombia – Dionisio Orjuela, Langham Preaching Regional Coordinator, Central America 

“The mayor of one of the most populous and poorest cities in Colombia expressed that his greatest concern is not that people die of Covid-19, but that they starve. The economic impact of the national quarantine is great, particularly for the informal workers who live from day to day. This situation has taken us all by surprise. We are all looking for answers. Join with me in praying that each escuelita (Langham Preaching club) coordinator, each pastor and leader related to this preaching movement will be shepherded by the Lord and His Word, and then find the most suitable strategies to shepherd the people and churches whom they serve as pastors/leaders.”

Nigeria – Godwin Etukumana, Langham Scholar

“Greetings from Nigeria. I trust that the Lord will continue to uphold His people. It is our prayer that many people will help stop the spread of the disease by adhering to the rules. Nigeria has one of the worst living conditions with a huge population. Our prayer is that the disease will not spread to communities. This will be a disaster, as our government does not put things in place. May the Lord continue to hear the cry of His people and have mercy on us. Thank you and do find protection under His wings.”

Philippines – Iljo de Keijzer, Langham Preaching Training Coordinator

“Many people were so excited after our Langham pastor-training seminar in January and started many Preaching Clubs and Saturday classes to pass on to others what they had learned. Pray that people will not lose momentum and that they will return to these commitments when it becomes possible to do so again. In their sermons, many pastors are trying to force the text to fit with the pandemic. Pray that we can help them be more careful with their application.

His grace may not be sufficient for the whole Covid-19 pandemic, but it is enough for each day. One day at a time. His love is new every morning. Jeremiah 17 shows us that while we cannot depend on human authorities, if we depend on God, we will bear fruit, even in the year of drought.”

Sensitive Middle Eastern Country – a Langham-trained pastor

“While our own poor are suffering greatly and fear both the medical and economic impact of the pandemic, the situation is even more dire for the four million refugees in our region. They were the first to lose their (low-paid) jobs and they have no family, or social system, to help them through this extreme hardship. One of these families, with six children, has just contacted us for help. No, we are not all in the same situation! Being stuck at home, drooping with boredom, is different from being stuck at home, drooping in hunger.

One pastor-training seminar here has been postponed. While half the believers are in the capital, the rest of us are spread thinly around the country. Pray that we will find ways to provide mutual support and encouragement to each other during this stressful time. Pray that believers will discover a true taste of the Lord’s presence, because He did promise to be ‘with us’; and that God is serious about ‘loving your neighbor.’ May they find practical ways to do this with sincere hearts.”

Spain – Andres Reid, Langham’s pastor training team

“In Spanish society, people love to be together . . . Not being able to be with loved ones as they pass away in a hospital and being able to gather for any kind of funeral service are deeply shocking experiences . . . Against such a dark background, the Psalmist’s words are a source of hope: ‘in your light we see light’ (Ps 36:9). The light of God comes to us through the Word of God. Church leaders have scrambled to find alternative ways to gather online to hear God’s Word and to respond in worship. One of our regional committees decided not to cancel a one-day [pastor training] they had planned in Tenerife for April 25. One of the [local leaders] said, ‘This is so critically important, we must not cancel unless it becomes absolutely impossible to go ahead.’ So, Lord-willing, the event, including the preaching, the training sessions, and the small groups for working on passages, will all be held via Zoom. God’s Word is not chained! 

We appreciate your prayers for us. Pray that we retain the hope of the Gospel, are imaginative in communicating it and that once the darkness of the storm has passed, Spanish people’s hearts will be hungry for the light.”

Reflections of Hope for Easter

Bringing Hope to the Broken
Retired Bishop David Zac Niringiye, Uganda, Langham Scholar, author, pastor and advocate for peace

My faith is rooted in the story of Jesus of Nazareth, the Savior and Lord of the cosmos. . . What a joy and privilege to be part of a cloud of witnesses, in history and across the world, who bear testimony to the presence and power of God, at work in good and bad times, in the face of natural disasters, human catastrophes and plague. I am persuaded that in this moment, the imperative of this faith and assurance is to get on our knees and pray, as Jesus taught us: “May your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth (assailed with COVID-19) as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10); and to live that prayer, embodying God’s love that seeks to serve others, particularly the vulnerable and disinherited. Perhaps then we can boldly pray for His reign of love and justice to come, as we demonstrate it to the world.

May COVID-19 open our eyes and ears to see and hear God’s world, as he does; and respond to his invitation as Jesus’s followers, to be his hands and his feet, bringing hope to a broken world.

Looking to the Cross
Langham Scholar, name withheld because they serve in a sensitive region

Often we think that God’s love will bring us blessings, healing, and prosperity. In the Bible, God often talks about different aspects of love: punishment, suffering and even death. Soon after His triumphant entry, Jesus will die on the cross. The cross in that time is a symbol of death, but through the cross we will have eternal life. The cross is also a symbol of human suffering, but through the cross we will be free from all pain, sickness and suffering. The cross is a symbol of enmity and hatred,  but through the cross we are reconciled and loved by God.

Relying on Jesus
Bernardo Cho, Brazil, Langham Scholar; Professor at Seminário Teológico Servo de Cristo; senior pastor, Igreja Presbiteriana do Caminho

Thankfully, the same Jesus of yesterday and today remains on the throne and will be with us tomorrow. . . Despite all the challenges, we have a clear sense that God is renewing our trust in His goodness, by teaching us wholly to rely on Him. This is very clear in the way our newly planted church has been led to pray together – via Zoom – and to put in practice the things we hear on Sundays. More than ever, we will need to learn to be a true Christian community, discerning how to live out our calling as disciples of Jesus in fresh ways.

Rejoicing in the Lord
Dr. Rula Khoury Mansour, Langham Scholar, director of peace studies at Evangelical College of Nazareth

“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” -Philippians 4:4

Our joy in the Lord is not changed by our external circumstances, whether they are positive or challenging. This is because our joy comes from our steadfastness in Christ, and joy is rooted in our lives as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. The Apostle Paul emphasizes this, knowing that we may neglect it: “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).  How can we rejoice in the Lord during the Corona crisis? We can rejoice because of the forgiveness that we have received in Christ and because our name is written in the Book of Life. We can rejoice because God has given us the gift of His holy word, the Holy Spirit, and the Church to strengthen, guide and encourage us. We can be joyful because we can be sure that the situation we are in is not merely a coincidence. If we know that God is good and He is sovereign, then we can trust that He is working through this crisis for the sake of our good. Let us rejoice in the Lord, and may our joy be like an infectious virus at this time when many around us are in need of encouragement and joy. 

Lament During a Pandemic: What We Miss If We Only Sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness

Rico Villanueva, Langham Scholar and Professor, Asia Graduate School of Theology

Rico is a Langham Scholar who equips the next generation of pastors and leaders for the Philippines. He has authored Bible commentaries and pastoral care books—among the first written by a South Asian leader for South Asian believers. Rico teaches at several institutions, including Asia Graduate School of Theology in Manila.

“God is in control.” 

“All things work together for good.”

“Trust God.” 

“God is telling us something. Listen!” 

These are the types of messages we are hearing these days. We should not fear. We will overcome. We should not be worried. This too shall pass. When somebody dies, we say, “She is now in heaven,” as if we are not affected.

But how can we be not affected if we can’t even hold proper funerals for our loved ones? If we can’t even mourn or grieve as a family? Funerals are a big deal in many cultures. Relatives fly home from abroad just to be with their loved ones. But how can we do that now?

What is going to happen to all that stifled grief? Counsellors and pastors are bracing for the tsunami of emotional problems resulting from displaced grief that will strike once the pandemic is over.

Meanwhile, in the present we are haunted by the hunger among the poor and the isolation, sadness, loneliness, depression, and helplessness resulting from the lockdowns in many places. 

How do we survive this pandemic?

Through lament.

One of the reasons the Old Testament Israelites were able to endure so many calamities was they knew how to lament. When their crops failed or they were defeated in a war, they would gather together to grieve. That is why there are so many laments in the Bible, including more than a third of the 150 psalms. There is even a whole book called “Lamentations.” 

The only part of the book of Lamentations many Christians know is the chorus of the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” It is based on these words from Lamentations 3:22–23: 

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,                 

for His compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

Unfortunately, these are the only words from Lamentations incorporated into the song. It is as if Lamentations is all about assurance and blessings, rather than being a heartbroken response to the destruction of Jerusalem. 

The writer of the hymn has ignored a key principle in interpreting the Bible (and composing songs based on a biblical text, which is a form of interpretation). He has not considered the context. Lamentations 3:22–23, “have been wrenched from their context, made the basis of a popular hymn and thus forced to justify a spirituality overflowing with joy, confidence and the untroubled assurance that the world is exactly as it should be.” (David Smith, Stumbling Toward Zion, pg. 21)

We may enjoy the lovely words of the third stanza of the hymn: 

Pardon for Sin, and peace that endureth,

Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, 

Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside 

But I have to agree with the Scottish theologian David Smith:

“When read without reference to the source of its opening lines, this is surely a dreadful misuse of Scripture, distorting the text from Lamentations by compelling it to serve an understanding of the life of faith completely at odds with the message of the book in which it is embedded.”

What we include in a song is important, but so is what we exclude. The Book of Lamentations is more than a declaration of God’s faithfulness. It is also about the grieving of God’s people, the pain of isolation, the reality of hunger, questions, and uncertainties. These are our realities today, and that is why we need to go to the book of Lamentations if we are to learn how to survive the pandemic. 

The Importance of Weeping

The very first word in Lamentations is a great cry—“eicha.” This is a cry of mourning, a funeral cry, similar to the Ilokano funeral cry (dung-aw) “Ay!” It sets the tone for the whole book, declaring that it is about grieving, mourning, and weeping. 

A pandemic is not a time for rejoicing; it is a time for mourning. Those who quote Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always,” need to be reminded that the Apostle Paul also said, “Mourn with those who mourn” (Rom 12:15). You may not be grieving one of your relatives, but as I write this, 12 doctors in the Philippines have died of COVID-19, and thousands around the world are mourning loved ones. 

Lamentations gives space to weeping and crying:

Bitterly she weeps at night,

tears are on her cheeks. (Lam 1:2)

My eyes fail from weeping,

I am in torment within. (Lam 2:11)

Streams of tears flow from my eyes

because my people are destroyed. (Lam 3:48)

My eyes will flow unceasingly, without relief,

until the LORD looks down from heaven and sees. (Lam 3:49-50)

For those who are unable to give their loved ones a proper funeral because of the pandemic, the words of Lamentations provide much-needed space to express their pain and suffering.

The author of Lamentations tells us:

Arise, cry out in the night,

as the watches of the night begin;

pour out your heart like water

in the presence of the LORD. (Lam 2:19)

The last words of that verse are very important—“in the presence of the Lord.” Lament is part of prayer. Weeping is not unspiritual and a sign of weakness when it is done “in the presence of the Lord.” 


One of the most difficult consequences of COVID-19 for Filipinos (and many others) is isolation. Even introverts need some social interaction. We love to be with our friends and family. Some of us find it hard to live a day without going out. But now we are confined to our homes, and the roads are empty.

The book of Lamentations too portrays a city that is deserted. Crowded roads are now empty. We can identify with the author as he laments, 

How deserted lies the city,

once so full of people! (Lam 1:1)

The roads to Zion mourn,

for no one comes to her appointed festivals.

All her gateways are desolate… (Lam 1:4)


Some of us cheerfully sing the lines

All I have needed thy hand hath provided

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

because we still have rice and food for the next month. But what about those who don’t? 

How can we sing the song “10,000 Reasons?” Are we so heartless that we ignore the hungry, or so insensitive that we expect them to declare with us:

Sing like never before,

Oh my soul

I’ll worship Your Holy name

A friend posted on Facebook about asking poor families whether they had received any help from the government. Only three out of 12 families said “yes.” And they had been given only 2 to 3 kilos of rice and a few canned goods—barely enough to feed a family for a week. Mothers were desperately trying to make that food last: “One said that she allows her kids to sleep longer through the day so they only need to eat twice instead of the usual three meals a day, and that she is now preparing porridge instead of the regular rice meal with a simple viand.”

In Lamentations the poet weeps for the hungry children:

My eyes fail from weeping,

I am in torment within;

my heart is poured out on the ground

…because children and infants faint

in the streets of the city.

They say to their mothers,

“Where is bread and wine?”

as they faint like the wounded

in the streets of the city,

as their lives ebb away

in their mothers’ arms. (Lam 2:11-12)

Because of thirst the infant’s tongue

sticks to the roof of its mouth;

the children beg for bread,

but no one gives it to them. (Lam 4:4)

A pastor wrote that the people in his poor community are more likely to die of hunger than of the deadly virus. We see something similar in Lamentations:

Those killed by the sword are better off

than those who die of famine;

racked with hunger,

they waste away for lack of food. (Lam 4:9)

An old man cried on social media: “I would rather die of COVID-19 than of hunger!”


In Lamentations, we see the most tragic thing of all: mothers eating the flesh of their own children:

With their own hands compassionate women

have cooked their own children,

who became their food

when my people were destroyed. (Lam 4:10)

Thus the question, “why?” 

The people in Lamentations did not deny that their sins were one reason for their suffering. But this did not stop them from asking God “why?”:

Why do you always forget us?

Why do you forsake us so long? (Lam 5:20)

I cannot overemphasize the importance of the question “why?” during this time. When people who are suffering ask “why?” they are not really seeking an answer or an explanation. They are expressing their agony and pain. It is a mistake to think that we always need to supply an answer to this question. Often, we do not know the answer, and the best we can do is be quiet and listen. 

God never speaks in Lamentations. There is no word from the Lord. God is silent from the beginning of the book to the end. It may be that He allows His people to pour out their hearts and listens to their cries, rather than speaking. We don’t really know why He is silent. Lamentations forces us to embrace this uncertainty. 


Lamentations ends with no answer. The last three verses of the book are a question, a petition, and a note of uncertainty: 

  • Question: “Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long?” (Lam 5:20)
  • Petition: “Restore us to yourself, LORD, that we may be restored.” (Lam 5:21)
  • Uncertainty: “unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure.” (Lam 5:22)

How we long to know when the pandemic will end or how long the lockdown will last. With the coming Holy Week, we at least know that Easter is coming. But that is almost the only thing we can be certain of. 

This is where the Book of Lamentations becomes a gracious companion. It allows for the expression of our uncertainties. The ending of any book is not merely a trailing off; it is a very important statement. By ending on this note, Lamentations creates space for our own uncertainties. Nothing—even uncertainty—is outside of God. 

Concluding Thoughts

When we are not able to grieve because we cannot be with our loved ones, we can weep in the presence of the Lord. We know that Jesus will be with us, weeping as He did when His friend Lazarus died. Jesus weeps for every doctor dying. Jesus weeps with every family member who loses a loved one. 

In our isolation, we are not alone. Jesus too was abandoned by His friends. He felt abandoned even by God when He was on the cross. We do not have to deny our feelings of isolation. Rather, let us try to turn them into a means of intimacy with Christ. With Christ, we can cry, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” 

The hunger in Lamentations is also a reality today. Many are struggling, especially day workers. This should prompt us not only to pray but to help as we are able. It should also lead us to ask our leaders what they are doing. 

Human leaders do not like lament. They want to silence all questioning and dissent. But the fact that these questions are preserved in the Holy Scriptures means that they are also there for our edification. They are there for our growth. 

Lament is there for our growth—but not just for our growth as individuals. Lament is also given to teach the church to be actively engaged in society. Lament is also political (but this will be the topic of another paper).

See how much we miss when we only sing “Great is Thy faithfulness!”

“Be Not Afraid”

Femi Adeleye, Langham Scholar and Preaching Director, Africa

Femi is a Langham Scholar and director of Langham Preaching in Africa. He is founder and director of the Institute for Christian Impact, which equips African believers to bring the Gospel into their communities. He is author of Preachers of a Different Gospel, published by Langham. May his words below, written to pastors who head up Langham’s preaching training across Africa, encourage us all.

Greetings from Ghana. This is the day the Lord has made and, as difficult as it may be, we shall rejoice in it, fully assured that our God is alive and still in charge of His world! It goes without saying that these are extraordinary times with the pandemic of the coronavirus. I’m sure you’ve been following the news and watching the trend of its rapid spread to various parts of the world. So much has been said and written about it that I will only share some thoughts before offering some ways forward for us as a community and fellowship of Langham Preaching friends and partners.

Coronavirus is a global reality affecting literally all parts of the world. Please don’t treat it lightly. It has grounded most of what we consider normal in life, including mass movements of people, flights, markets, and restaurants. Many nations like France, Spain, Italy, and India, as well as several states in the US, are on complete shutdown. It has also demonstrated that we as humans are NOT masters of our lives. With few exceptions, scientists and politicians are mostly at a loss on how to respond. Even nations with the most sophisticated weapons of mass destruction have been rendered helpless by this invisible enemy that reminds all that we are not as invincible as often thought. Much more can be said about this invisible virus that is no respecter of boundaries, status or nationality. However, the critical question now is how we respond. Churches and governments have tried their best to provide some guidance, even if some are so flawed. 

For now, may I offer the following words? “Be not afraid!”

It seems so long ago that we celebrated Christmas, but at the advent of Christ after what is often described as 400 years of “God’s silence,” the first word that the angel of the Lord spoke to shepherds watching their sheep at night was, “Do not be afraid” (Luke 2:8-10, esp. v. 10).  “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.’” It is the same words that our Lord Jesus said to the women who first saw him after his resurrection: “Do not be afraid,” said Jesus. “Go, tell My brothers to go to Galilee. There they will see Me.” (Matthew 28:10) Why should we NOT be afraid? Simply because it is the same word of our Lord who never changes to us. This is the same God that assures us through the words of Psalm 91:

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.” (vs. 1-4)

Having said this, most of you must have been part of prayer meetings asking God to restrain the spread of coronavirus. All of you are also aware of various guidance from governments and churches on how to keep safe. Seeing how fragile our health care facilities and systems are in Africa, we encourage you to do your best to keep to the recommended procedures to keep safe, including washing of hands and social distancing. . . The Lord be with you, keep you safe and giving thanks in all circumstances.

A Journey of Healing

Langham Scholar, Asia

A Langham Scholar, whose name and photo are withheld because they serve in a sensitive region, walks us through a journey of physical, emotional, relational, social and spiritual healing.


We live in a very difficult time, coronavirus has caused so many deaths and chaos. This is a time of grieving; however, in the midst of crisis and hardship, we can still have a healing journey.

Physical Healing

The current pandemic forces those of us who have workaholic tendencies to rest. It’s not easy to rest. Even God needs to force the Israelites to rest with the Sabbath law. While working as slaves in Egypt people worked nonstop, they worked to death. After the exodus God forbade them to work on Sabbath. Sabbath is a time of rest and physical recovery from a heavy workload. Sabbath is a gift from God, so that we can rest and restore our body and soul from exhaustion. Hopefully behind this pandemic we can see the heart of God. He loves us; He understands our physical needs; therefore, He gives us time to rest.

Emotional/Mental Healing 

In a fast-paced and rushed era, we rarely have time to stop and reflect. Many people are stressed and depressed because they have no chance to rest their minds. As a result, in addition to physical conditions, emotions and thoughts are also disturbed. God Himself gives a pattern for pause, to stop and reflect on what He has done in creation. He does it day after day. Every time he finished creating, God stopped and took the time to look back at what He had done, then said, “God saw that everything was good.” Let the time of rest due to the coronavirus make us able to stop, not only to physically recover, but to process everything we have done and gone through—checking our work, emotions and thoughts. Let this coronavirus pandemic become an inner journey of healing for all of us.

Relational Healing

Coronavirus makes us all go home, meet family and rest. In this day and age many people lack time together with family. Children are busy at school, parents are busy at work. This is the time to restore the family. That is also the essence of sabbath. God gave the Israelites time to gather with their families and worship together. May this grace of God be felt by us even though we are in a very difficult time. Let’s use this time to restore the relationship of husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters, and so on.

Social Healing

So far our society has been divided. We are a nation that has a tendency to be selfish, racist and discriminatory in many ways. This pandemic forces us to see that we are all the same. We are equal, and no one is immune to this virus. Therefore, it is time for Christians to show our social responsibility. Let’s support our government program for social distancing and self-isolation, not because of fear or lack of faith, but because of humanity. We have a social responsibility for this nation.

Spiritual Healing 

The coronavirus forces us to seek God and this can be a healing journey for our dry spirituality. Sabbath is a time of rest and gathering with family, as well as a time of worship. It is a time for us to develop our relationship with God. In this increasingly advanced world, we are compelled to forget God because everything is available. We shift our gaze to world power, wealth, reputation, achievement, and so on. The coronavirus  pandemic proves that we are limited and helpless. This is the time for us to return to God.

“Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for you are my praise.” Jeremiah 17:14

About Langham Scholars: With your support, Langham provides the scholarships and pastoral care for emerging leaders to complete their PhDs in biblical and theological studies. These Langham Scholars then return to their home countries to teach and train future pastors in seminaries, start salt and light ministries, and serve their nations for Christ.

Coronavirus Outbreak: 4 Ways to Pray

Patrick Fung, Singapore

Patrick is a member of Langham Partnership’s International Council and Director of OMF International. His reflection was first published on OMF International.

O Lord, we encounter death, fear, but into your wisdom we log in

  • A new god is claiming to be Lord of lords and King of kings
  • He destroys bodies and fear is the theme of his paintings
  • The strong and powerful are locking themselves in their buildings
  • He prevents us from going to work and we have no savings
  • We are closing our churches and stopping our meetings

O Lord, we encounter death, fear, but into your wisdom we log in

  • This god hates weddings, public games, and social gatherings
  • He wears many crowns and many kingdoms under his shadow he brings
  • Covid-19 seems strong and more powerful than the Vikings
  • He stopped all cars, trains, airplanes, and we are losing our wings
  • He is everywhere, very powerful, and has the highest ratings

O Lord, we encounter death, fear, but into your wisdom we log in

  • We will bow our knees only to Christ, the greatest being
  • Into his hands we entrust our destiny and embrace his saying
  • I am the alpha and the omega and there is no need for worrying
  • His mercy and goodness in this cold season are the best covering
  • We pray, serve, and love, knowing that in Christ we are not perishing

O Lord, in your face we encounter love, faith, hope, and a contagious blessing

Love in the Time of the Pandemic

Martin Accad, Langham Scholar, Lebanon

Previously published on the Institute of Middle East Studies blog (through Arab Baptist Theological Seminary), Martin shares his thoughts on ways the pandemic is bringing the world to its knees.


We live in a very difficult time, Coronavirus has caused so many deaths and chaos. This is a time of grieving; however, in the midst of crisis and hardship, we can still have a healing journey.

Lebanon this academic year (2019-2020) has so far reaped three “pandemics:” the collapse of our political system, the collapse of our economy, and the collapse of our public health. Who could have predicted that we would use these words in a single sentence? As someone who grew up through the Lebanese Civil War from the mid-1970s; one who witnessed the first great collapse of our currency in the 1980s, when our Lebanese pound devaluated from 3.5 pounds to the US dollar to 1500 pounds over a few months; I never thought I would live to see the near-collapse of political, economic, and health sectors in a single year. Covid-19, aka coronavirus, which is bringing our world to its knees, is a metaphor for all that is wrong with us today. But could it also be a metaphor for what can be right?

Since the start of the anti-sectarian revolution that mobilized masses of Lebanese on 17 October 2019, the signs of the collapse of a political system, plagued with extremist politics and extremist religion, have appeared. Revolution largely subsided as a result of pending economic collapse and now continues to dissipate due to the limitation of social contact imposed by this viral disease. The economic crisis was not caused by the revolution but is rather the result of decades of corruption, clientelism, and financial mismanagement within the Lebanese political system.

Enter COVID-19 on the world stage – consider it a metaphor for the viral sickness of political extremism bolstered by decades of mounting religious extremism throughout the 20th Century. Lebanon as a microcosm is the metaphor of a dormant virus that has been incubating for decades throughout the world, finally manifesting itself over the past twenty years through unprecedented scales of racism, xenophobia, closed borders, population displacement, and violence. Corrupt economics and clientelism, so acutely and scandalously revealed since October 2019 in Lebanon, has also been the order of the day globally for decades. This is no doubt a significant factor in the rise of religious extremism, a diagnostic chiefly manifested through the 20th Century.

But if COVID-19 was finally recognized by the World Health Organization as a global pandemic, could the protective steps against it also stand as a metaphor for the solution to other pandemics? Two words stand out if one is able to think beyond the tragedy and fear surrounding the coronavirus: Global Solidarity.

As governments around the globe take drastic measures to protect their citizens, even ISIS issued a travel warning to its terrorist members on the 15th of March advising them to avoid travel to Europe. (The suspension of terrorism in the face of COVID-19 may be the irony of the year!) But beyond the extremes, in numerous contexts the dominance of the pandemic across world media has imposed a suspension of religious and ethnic division and hateful discourse to confront a greater evil. As everyone faces their mortality, a pause on hatred has been triggered by a sense of solidarity deriving from our common humanity.

Suddenly too, we seem to be witnessing the suspension of economic egotism within and across governments, as some political actors awaken to the realization that our societies are economically interconnected. Government waivers of taxes, promises of financial compensation for unemployment, and announcements of universal healthcare to fight the plague have hit like lightning in many countries. Disease control has taken precedence over financial profit . . . for a time at least.

But COVID-19 has also impacted our individualistic and selfish tendencies. Though the young and healthy are told that the virus has less potency over them, most of us seem suddenly and quietly to have acquiesced to the suspension of our personal comfort and self-interest in order to protect the more vulnerable in our communities. We are willing to close our restaurants, malls, cinemas, and schools, and to confine ourselves to self-imposed quarantine at home, in order to minimize the spread of the disease and spare our sick and elderly.

The picture is not all one of redemption. There are also those who have rushed out selfishly to hoard goods at the expense of others. And politicians who point fingers and shift blame on external agents for introducing the disease into their country – scoring points in these tragic times – remind us that both our own human selfishness and that of extreme politics remain resistant to the scourge of the virus.

When fear strikes, solidarity seems to take – if even for a short time – priority over our fanatic minds and our egotistic selves in a desperate effort to push off the advance of disease and death. Fear and pain can be good for humans. They cut through the haze of our compulsive focus on personal comfort. They make us more accepting of those who are different, more generous toward those who have less than us, more caring for the most vulnerable. Could it be that this global pandemic is making us more human . . . for a time at least? If only we could remember those lessons in a few months, when all goes back to normal. Our communities would be a notch closer to living out the values of

God’s Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus:
Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh . . . (Luke 6:20–21)

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep. (Luke 6:24–25)

Solidarity with our fellow-humans – this seems to be at the core of Jesus’ teaching. Delayed gratification for the sake of those whose wellbeing depends on our willingness to share the earth’s resources. Soon our scientists will discover the vaccine; human immunity will ramp up; the air’s temperature will rise and possibly limit the lifespan of the virus. All will return to normal. But will we remember the lessons of the time of pandemic when our world was coming to an end? Sadly, most will not, but perhaps some will. Would that we honor the victims of COVID-19 – from Wuhan in China to Codogno in Lombardy, Italy – by retaining the values learned in the time of the pandemic that claimed their lives. Would that the values of God’s Kingdom be remembered and practiced beyond the time of tragedy, suffering, and death.