The catastrophe is upon us. The world is suffering and in shock as hundreds of thousands of people are dying from the coronavirus and economies are in chaos. This is because humans disrupted the natural world and caused this deadly virus to awaken like an angry dragon that is now infecting the world.
Human encroachment is destroying the natural world by capturing wild animals for sale and butchering them for bush meat. This is behind the outbreak of Covid-19. We humans are also busy overheating the planet, polluting the seas and skies, poisoning the rivers and waterways, and killing and trading endangered creatures in wild animal markets giving rise to death-dealing diseases. The more we disrupt nature, the more we bring disaster upon ourselves. We are responsible for the outbreaks of killer viruses such as SARS coronavirus, Ebolavirus, HIV, MERS-CoV and now SARS-CoV2 that causes Covid-19 and more yet to come.
Coronaviruses are known to cause zoonotic diseases- originating in animals and transmitting themselves to humans. China has now banned the capture, trading and eating of wild animals. The rest of the world must stop it also although it’s too late as the coronavirus is wading among humans like a grim reaper with a flashing scythe. There are 22 million reported cases of infection, 14 million recovered patients and 777,000 confirmed deaths. The figures could be many more and it is increasing daily.
Human attacks on nature increase as poachers slaughter thousands of magnificent elephants and rhinos for their ivory. Exotic animals, birds, and reptiles, many on the endangered list, are still bought and sold illegally but tolerated by African, Asian and South American governments. The destructive encroachment by humans on the habitat of wild creatures around the world has driven most to the edge of extinction.
Covid-19 has been unleashed by this irresponsible human activity and what is shocking is that hundreds of thousands of potential victims are treating it lightly and laughing it off and defying health restrictions. They are spreading it like poisonous spores on the wind, bringing sickness and death to rich and poor.
The real catastrophe is not only the response of nature to human destructive activity but the widespread lack of human concern and responsibility in this age where selfishness and self-interest dominate modern life.
It is people that must change if we are to survive the pandemic and more yet to come. We must cooperate and act together with an urgent sense of community responsibility if we are to escape infection by this dragon-like virus, a dragon not easily slayed.
Hospitals are overwhelmed as many thousands of compassionate, caring medical people put themselves at grave risk to help others. If they did not, the world would collapse into chaos and the suffering would be unbearable, unendurable with incurable sickness and abandonment. Then anger, insecurity, social unrest, and political upheaval will be the inevitable result.
Nations and communities are held together by the good people, the frontline caregivers, doctors, nurses, orderlies, social workers, and helpers. They are risking their lives and sacrificing themselves to serve others with dedication and love of the sick patients. They are truly the good Samaritans of this world. Without them, we would be lost to unrelieved pain and hardship, sickness without relief and misery without mercy. We would be the leaves of autumn, dying and falling to the earth alone. Their heroic commitment and compassion have saved many thousands and nursed them to recovery. Many of them too have been struck down and died from Covid-19, sacrificing themselves while helping others.
Yet many irresponsible people recklessly and uncaringly spread the infection by a lifestyle of pleasure and unconcern. To see positive change in the world, people have to change. How can we enlighten and persuade uncaring people to care for others and to embrace a kind, caring attitude to those in need? We urgently need that supreme virtue so sadly lacking in the world today, compassion, an attitude that is like a new spring of life, sunshine and flowers, in a world of death and decay.
Compassion is a firm belief in the equal value of every person carried by a deep feeling of empathy. To be a person of compassion, we must take action, to protect, to care, to help the suffering, the poor, the vulnerable, the oppressed and the sick. It is a feeling in the heart, an urge to heal and cure and to undo injustice and create equality. It is what compels people to help people and is the essence of a caring sustainable society where justice and equality are the supreme goals to build a nation of sharing, filled with plenty and happiness.
The truth is that the ideal community of sunshine and flowers, a society based on compassion, justice, truth and freedom and caring for others, is in very short supply. It is an important ideal like that of bringing about the “Kingdom of Heaven” here on earth. We can be more compassionate people and help bring relief and help to the people still vulnerable and suffering from Covid-19.
They suffer dire poverty and hunger, living in poor villages or crowded into shacks and shanties. The killer coronavirus rages through the lives of the oppressed and exploited poor, plunging them into agonizing sickness and misery of Covid-19 from which death is the only release. We can prevent this by education and supporting poor communities with relief and working for economic and social justice.
In the high-rise condominiums of the selfish, uncaring rich, relaxing in luxurious pleasure domes, the elite isolated in their palaces of plenty are devoid of compassion in their loveless, uncaring lives.
The challenge is to counter the greedy, loveless world of oppression and exploitation with compassion and justice to change ourselves and the world. With hope and a firm belief in the value of every life, in the power of goodness, in the force of love and to act daily to help others without seeking reward, then we can bring meaningful change and help bring about a compassionate, safe and caring society for all.
(Fr. Shay Cullen)