Reflections on our deeper crisis

Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

An article on an interesting subject? No, not this time. I can only write from the deep crisis situation we are in at present. There is nothing else that keeps me more busy than the question of how to live with the anxiety and fear of the coronavirus and what to make of it.

We all begin to understand that this virus is part and parcell of a much wider deep world crisis. Coronavirus is but a small symptom of what is killing our world.

In the end, our scientists will find the right medicament to heal this illness. But this crisis is only the beginning of the real and basic question: who and what will heal the world with its billions of suffering people? How can we finally live in peace? What is it that will end wars of peoples and nations, religions and races, all our differences?

Do we realize that we have suddenly given up on the “rest” of the world? We don’t hear anymore of the refugees on the Turkish-Greek border. The war in Syria, the occupation of Palestine, the crises in western and eastern Africa are no longer of interest. We have become egocentric.

Our politicians who were elected with the golden motto “gouverner c’est prévoir,” have lost or misunderstood their responsibility. They are, like we all are, the victims of power systems which operate in such a way that a few rich reign the rest of the world’s poor. We now seem to have reached the point that even people of good will - and there are quite a few of them! - are unable to disentangle the mess we are in. The UN, the world economic institutions, the churches and all the other institutions which are supposed to further peace and prosperity in this world, are at a point of complete paralysis. Because they have become part and parcel of this power system and are unable to free themselves and to serve the people of this world.

Finding a solution to the present virus, would of course  be a great achievement. But it will remain patchwork in the overall crisis. Until the next crisis makes us hopefully even more aware that something is going basically wrong in our world and that radical change is the only way out. History tells us enough about endless violence, wars and consequent suffering.

There have, of course, been many attempts to break out of the vicious circle of wars, of violence and counter-violence. Also, there are enough examples of brave prophets and movements (including the ecumenical movement) telling us the truth; women and men who pleaded and implored us to turn around (metanoia) and to change our lives, our societies.

Jesus Christ, Gandhi and Martin Luther King (to mention only these men and many women whose names are hardly ever heard) were sent amongst us to make clear what basic changes were asked from us if we wanted life for all. But we always knew what to do with them. They disturbed and troubled us in our power games and thus needed to be done away, assassinated. They were our scapegoats.

The victims of power, the oppressed, lost again. The powerful won yet another round.

How many rounds are yet to come before we understand? Could this round of the virus be the last one? Are we beginning to understand? Or are we in for still more? Each time more serious? And then - after a while - again business as usual?

Until, may be, we finally realize, may be too late in the day?

Crises are there to learn from, they say. To live differently, to change accordingly our lifestyles and systems, financial, economic, political, etc.

What I am saying is of course nothing new. We all know. Yet, we seem to think that this crisis and the next  will go over. They are part of certain cycles. That is normal.  Such is the world we seem to be living in. We have to live with it.

For me, at the end of my life,  the warning is clear. It is now or never.

To me, the Book of Revelation is becoming more and more actual and alive. The promise is there: “the city of the new Jerusalem will never be shut by day - and there will be no night….the leaves of the trees will serve as the healing of the nations….”

We need to turn around and humble ourselves. Humility vis-à-vis God, vis à vis his creation, all living species. Respect each other, respect God’s creation.

Our hope comes from the powerless, not those in power; from Jesus Christ who accepted the cross in order to free us from our wrongs and who lead us into real Life.

Turning around is the most crucial and difficult movement in our lives, both individually but no less collectively, in our different societies. It all depends on love towards each other. Translating that love into living together in justice and peace. By the Love of God.

In silence I humbly meditate and pray that this day may come true. We need to overcome. One day. Soon.

"Coping with the Coronavirus" - WCC landing page

About the author :

Baldwin Sjollema was the first director of the WCC Programme to Combat Racism. He has also renowned for his commitment to the South African liberation movement. He grew up in the Netherlands during World War II and then embarked on a lifetime of international work for the WCC and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and their action for racial justice. In 2004 he was enlisted in the Order of the Companions of Oliver R. Tambo by the Government of South Africa.


The impressions expressed in the blog posts are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.