Ataul Fatir Tahir
Antonio Guterres, the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations struck a chord amid the grim fiasco of Covid-19; “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war”, he noted earlier this week.
The global pandemic that ignores race, religion and borders has, thankfully, drawn society closer together. Ironically, despite isolation and distancing, it seems we have emerged closer as a society.
Neighbours are caring for each other by picking up shopping, prescriptions or just checking in for those in need. Families are reconnecting on group WhatsApp or Zoom calls, parents spending valuable time with children and the public showing their appreciation to health professionals from their windows. Charities have also taken their good work to a higher gear and all sorts of positive online initiates have sprung.
It is, however, extremely important to step outside this echo chamber of positivity and open our eyes to the ongoing “folly of war”. Governments are most definitely collaborating to overcome the Coronavirus; Chinese health professionals have landed in a plethora of countries including severely hit Italy to assist, Russia has sent medical supplies to the USA and the statements from the WHO International Health Regulations Emergency Committee meetings have been positive towards international cooperation amid the virus.
Behind these curtains of hope lurks the dark truth of ongoing international warfare, ugly geopolitics, crippling sanctions, and heart-breaking stories of the most vulnerable in society. As, Antonio Guterres put it, “The most vulnerable — women and children, people with disabilities, the marginalized and the displaced — pay the highest price.”
Wars and sanctions continue despite a common enemy; Covid-19. But, sadly, a common foe will not stop nations fighting each other. As a result, war-struck countries have less access to medical supplies, health professionals are targeted, health systems collapse, sanitation and hygiene is compromised and almost impossible, access to food, water and shelter becomes scarce and the overall threat of contracting and dying from the virus increases.
Add this to the mental and physical suffering of those parents and children, brothers and sisters, friends and family who must suffer while bombs drop above their head and sanctions squeeze the neck of their existence. Forget social distancing, being safe even at home is impossible.
What needs to happen, as the Secretary-General rightly pointed out, is to “end the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world.” Not temporarily, but forever.
Light at the end of the tunnel has been seen during this pandemic. Despite US sanctions on Iran and their resolve not to relieve them, Europe has began shipping relief to the country despite pressure not to. However, this is not near enough.
In his message, Antonio Guterres said that “to silence the guns, we must raise the voices for peace.” Yes, we must raise our voices for peace, and frankly they have been raised since the First World War, but no lasting peace has ruled in modern history. A practical and effective solution is first needed for us to even come close to lasting world peace.
Teachings of “absolute justice”, “upholding the rights of humanity”, “tolerance and mutual respect”, dropping “vested interests”, “establishing fair and honest dialogue, to “like for others what we like for ourselves” and “recognising God”, that Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa, the worldwide leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has relentlessly preached in light of the Quran need to be adopted for everlasting peace. These are the practical and effective steps that will “silence the guns” forever.
Let’s hold onto the glimpse of hope we have witnessed during this pandemic but, at the same time, open our eyes to the catastrophic threats that linger throughout the world.
For you and me, the comfort of our homes, connecting with family and having a steady supply of food and medicine is a norm we enjoy while we isolate. For millions of others who have lost family, don’t have medical treatment and have had the roof over their heads stripped, the outbreak is just another problem on the list to haunt them physically and mentally.
As we emerge from the virus, God willing, let our reflections on society grow to where we look beyond ourselves and strive for practical solutions for peace. Our emergence should build on the current positivity of unity and “helping thy neighbour” while shedding the skin of hate, discord and war.
Let’s return to God and serving His creation; the solution to humanity’s failure.