Message from Sri Lanka to fellow Citizens of the World
The world is today facing an unprecedented and tragic situation. From the 1st death in China on 11 January 2020, globally covid-19 has taken close to 38,000 lives as of 31st March 2020. The situation in virtually every country across the globe is dismal. Life has been affected as never before. All systems have collapsed. All supply chains in disarray and everyone is experiencing a nation-wide lockdown, province-wise lockdown, state-wise lockdown, curfew or self-isolation. The world has suddenly and unexpectedly changed.
There are powerful lessons to learn. Curfews and lockdowns have meant the entire family grounded in their home. As a result, children for the first time have seen their parents for more than a few hours! Shortage of vegetables have made people realize the importance of national self-sustenance and some have started home gardening already. Neglected hobbies and past times have been put to good use again. Small-timers have suddenly got opportunities to try out their entrepreneurial skills offering online door-to-door sales.
Nature is also taking a break. With factories closed the air is cleaner, curfews and lockdowns have meant less traffic on the road, the air has become clearer, the fumes not so visible. While nature looks a lot calmer, countries battling covid-19 are fighting a common invisible enemy. The UN Secretary General says the virus does not care about nationality, ethnicity, faction or faith and has called for a global cease fire of armed conflicts. While conflicts affects the poor and vulnerable the virus has equally devastated the lives of both poor & rich. Health systems have collapsed, economic systems have collapsed, state apparatus is being tested.
While the poor struggle to eat, unable to make a daily earning, the rich have the money but are unable to get their needs. Precariously, though in different measures both extremes of society are facing the question of, what is life, really about.
It is during times like these we can tap our hearts and ask what are we in this world for? What are our priorities, our treasures and our goals?
Covid-19 has made us see the pain of others through a different lens. As we watch the agony of families and health workers struggling to rescue lives in China, Italy, Spain, UK, US, France and even in my own country Sri Lanka, we feel for countries like Iran, Venezuela who find difficulty in treating their sick due to sanctions. Humanity needs to now be more meaningful than limited to mere statements, conferences and press releases during global pandemics of this nature.
2020 has delivered some very hard lessons through tragedy giving us another opportunity to reboot and get it right. Modern humans have journeyed from the age of discovery, exploration, development and globalization but where have we gone wrong to receive a wrath as the one we are currently facing.
When 1% of the 7billion populace have twice as much wealth as the 6.9billion it certainly raises more questions than answers. When 2billion people across the world do not have a proper toilet, people in the Western hemisphere were fighting for toilet paper. When countries were taking vitamin c against the virus another set were grappling to patent vaccines. So much of disparity highlights how poles apart the world is inspite of globalization.
Covid-19 has certainly raised alarm bells and put to focus our existing systems. Covid-19 has exposed areas we thought were fool-proof. Covid-19 has made us relook at every area we felt confident we knew how to handle. We have been virtually put to ground zero and forced to rethink. Going forward we need mindset change – attitude change and definitely system change. The entire globalization system will need to be relooked at. Country’s will have to think inward first before looking outward. The health pandemic requires deeper look at the economic pandemic that will engulf most nations recovering from covid-19 but in debt with a society without money, without jobs, without means of feeding their families.
In such a scenario, it calls for magnanimity, compassion and empathy as well as cooperation in rebuilding a world that has been shaken into facing some harsh realities.
The manner that the heath sector, the armed forces & police, public institutes, individuals and organizations have come forward to battle covid-19 gives much hope that we can reshape the future systems to one that is not exclusive but inclusive of all segments of society, bridging the gaps instead of building barriers and drawing the world together not based on disparities but for mutually beneficial goals.
The Buddha said, no one saves us but ourselves, no one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. Health is the greatest gift. Contentment is the greatest wealth.
- We must be the change we want to see and let that start with ME.
- Wishing every world citizen good health and happiness
Shenali D Waduge
Goodwill Ambassador- Sri Lanka
International Human Rights Commission