In 'iso' I have become connected
Tim Costello reflects on a new level of caring about each other
During the long weeks when we were all in isolation for COVID-19, I made some podcasts through my work with Micah Australia.
This is the first time in world history we have shared the same global consciousness of suffering.
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The miracle of Zoom has given me the opportunity and privilege to get into the living rooms of a range of global Christian leaders for this podcast series, Hope in Crisis (available through the Eternity Podcast Network). We were able to talk about the impact of this pandemic on their lives, their communities and ministries.
I have discovered – to cite the obvious – that this is the first time in world history we have shared the same global consciousness of suffering.
Never before has the Apostle Paul’s words – spoken in a different context – been so true of our globe: “when one part of the body suffers, we all suffer.” (see 1 Corinthians 12:26)
Yes, with the Psalmist we recognise that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and fearfully biologically connected. Infection anywhere is a risk to others everywhere.
I have interviewed pastors in Milan who, in the deathly lockdown, dedicated themselves to a ministry of listening to the grief of people and leading them in lament. I talked with a Christian leader in India trying to make sense of Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling in the Hindu gurus for national advice on the cause of the virus.
I also spoke with a courageous corruption-busting Christian journalist in Nairobi, praising his government, for once, over its fast action to implement lockdown and protect the poor. It is a reversal of bad governance and a reversal for the rich in Africa, who usually ignore and ostracise the poor. Now the poor in Africa are choosing to isolate themselves from the rich, saying, “you guys who fly internationally and live the high life have brought this virus into our country. We will avoid you.”
I have also spoken with Christian leaders in Washington DC, deploring the lack of consistent messaging from President Trump, with some states openly fighting the federal government on opening up the economy. This is unlike the relative unity and cooperation of our national cabinet that has done so well in suppressing the virus. Leadership that does not polarise and scapegoat but unifies is lifesaving leadership.
“As a fire exists for burning so the church exists for mission.” – Emil Brunner
The global experience of suffering has led Micah Australia to launch a new campaign for Christians called #ENDCOVIDFORALL. We know we are blessed to be a blessing.
As I write, in Australia we have so far had around 100 deaths and more than 7000 infections. So we have needed less than the 2000 ventilators we had at the outset, rather than the now 7000 ICU beds and ventilators we have on hand. But 20 African nations face a grim reality – like South Sudan, a Christian nation, which has only four ventilators. Some African nations have none.
Christian faith needs to underscore a global consciousness with extra compassion for those in nations with weak health systems. The risk is that we bank our blessings and turn inwards when our brothers and sisters are still at risk. I am thrilled the government has included pastors in the JobKeeper arrangements, but the church does not exist just for self-maintenance.
Emil Brunner said: “As a fire exists for burning so the church exists for mission.” The challenge is to end COVID-19 for all and Australian Christians and churches must cast their vision beyond our shores.
Tim Costello is the executive director of Micah Australia and a senior fellow of the Centre for Public Christianity.