Is The Pandemic Uniting The Global Community?19 Apr 2020
Throughout the world, we are seeing the deaths and infections from the coronavirus rising. Whole countries have been put under lockdown and, for many, the future seems bleak and uncertain. But can a pandemic with such horrible effects turn the tide in uniting the world? It may seem that the two ideas don’t mix, like oil and water, but with every disaster comes some sense of posivity and ease. Pandemics can prove to be an ultimate test of empathy and compassion within a civilisation, even if it’s hard to stay optimistic in such a drastic circumstance.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, discrimination, bigotry and racism were at an all-time high. Now that the world is facing the same enemy, and we are compelled to sympathise with one another, if the worst comes to it, can this help us reflect on our sheer similarities as human beings? In these unprecedented times, everyone is on the same boat, facing the same enemy at the same time. Everyone is either in isolation, or quarantined. Everyone around the globe is staying at home to stop the spread of the virus so they can safeguard and protect the communities and the country they live in. Like the NHS campaign states, “Stay at home. Saves lives.” In this uncertain era, we have become mini heroes by simply staying at home.
But how is this bringing us, as people and citizens, closer together? Charities, organisations and communities have all come together to help the vulnerable of our society, and the less fortunate. There are hundreds of thousands of people volunteering to help bring hot meals, medicine and personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers, and to those who are at high risk and cannot go out. The government issued a new volunteering scheme to support the NHS in helping vulnerable people amidst this crisis. They were overwhelmed by the response, which saw over 500,000 people signing up to volunteer within 24 hours of the announcement. Neighbours are checking in with each other to offer their support and services if needed. This reminds me of the Prophet Mohammed’s (peace be upon him) saying when he advised his followers:
“When you cook a stew, put more water in the broth (i.e. make more food) and take care of your neighbours,” (Sahih Muslim)
In this critical time, people are donating their money, time, resources and even medical equipment for all in need. The heart-warming gestures from local and global businesses are examples of people embracing the community spirit. And how can we forget the nation coming out on their balconies and windows to show support and appreciation by clapping for the NHS workers; and slogans emerging across the country saying, ‘You are not alone.’ The optimism and the social connectivity can be overwhelming and emotional, especially in the light of so many horrific events over the course of the 2010s.
We have seen different faith communities encouraging people of all faiths to pray for eachother, exchanging tweets and memes with each other despite their differences in belief. Local mosques, churches and other places of worship lending a helping hand to other communities and working together to help people in need, people praying for miracles and putting their trust and protection in the hands of their Lord. Mosques in Europe have broadcast the adhan as an example of solidarity between European Muslims and, indeed, everyone being affected by this crisis.
Islamically speaking, there’s a lot of advice given to us via the Holy Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on how to act during epidemics. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) speaks about doing good in society. He says that:
“Every act of goodness is a charity” (Sahih Muslim).
Another quote by the Prophet (peace be upon him) advises that
“The best among you are those who bring greatest benefits to others”.
And let’s not forget his renowned supplication, which most Muslims are supplicating today amidst the coronavirus pandemic:
“O Allah (God), I seek refuge in you from vitiligo, madness, leprosy and evil disease.”
In Amersfoort, Netherlands, there was a public sign at local bus stations quoting a verse form the Holy Quran,
“Whoever saves a life, it is as if he had saved mankind entirely” (Quran 5:32).
This was a sign from the Muslim community to thank their healthcare workers and show appreciation, and to encourage their fellow citizens to stay at home.
Although we try to focus on the positives of this pandemic that we are currently experiencing, we also remember all those who lost their lives in the fight against the coronavirus. This vicious virus doesn’t distinguish between ethnicity, race, religion, status, age, gender, the wealthy or the poor. It does not care on what victim it takes nor does it discriminate or respect borders and barriers. It created confusion and raised anxiety to the all-time high and put the world on standstill!
But there is a glimpse of hope amongst the darkness. We are seeing an increased sense of empathy between communities, societies and even between countries. In an act of sympathy, Turkey sent crates of medical aid to Spain and Italy which are the epicentres of the outbreak in Europe, and with higher death toll rates than China, sent crates full of medical aid to help them battle the coronavirus. Germany is taking patients from other European countries to relieve the overflow experienced in the hospitals in their home countries. Although the virus has spread across Germany rapidly too, the country has managed to keep casualties low, allowing it to help others more effectively. Across the world, nations are mourning and grieving together as we lose so many precious souls to (dare I say the ‘C’ word again) the coronavirus!
It’s also unfortunate that outbreaks, like the one we are witnessing at the moment, can similarly bring out the ugly in people. We witnessed the selfishness of panic buying and the disturbing scenes of people coughing on food produce and the unthinkable attacks on the older generation and healthcare workers. We have also seen racism rear its ugly head, aimed at Chinese people and Asian people in general, with racists accusing them of spreading the virus and even referring to the outbreak at “Kung Flu” in a typically unfunny fashion. As Muslims whose communities have often been unfairly targeted by racist attacks, the experiences of our Asian friends will undoubtedly be familiar.
It’s difficult to raise spirits in this uncertain atmosphere. But I do believe there is more good than bad in the world, maybe because I’m an optimist and always like to look on the bright side of situations. It’s very easy to fall down the rabbit hole of negativity especially if you’re self-isolating and are all alone. In these unprecedented times, we must take full advantage to connect with loved ones through social media or our smart phones so we can stay connected and to take care of our overall wellbeing.
Reflecting and acknowledging the positive stories of this global crisis, I’ll leave you with this story about an incredible act of kindness and courageousness. In a rare case in Belgium, a selfless and public-spirited 90 year-old woman died from the coronavirus after she refused a ventilator. Knowing of the global shortage of ventilators, she told doctors that she had lived a good life, and to keep it for the younger patients. It is stories like these that restore our faith in humanity, especially when there is so much negativity in the word. Maybe it will take a global pandemic for us to realize that we are all human, and we all bleed the same blood.