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What Message is COVID-19 Sending Us?

What is the message this new coronavirus (COVID-19) is conveying to us? Our well-ordered daily lives, which we had all along accepted and passed as a matter of course, has been destroyed in an astonishingly brief period of time, and in the face of this crisis, people have a tendency to do no more than merely mutter the words, “Impossible….” Of course, we are aware that the cause of this disaster is a virus, and regardless of the fact that we find it almost impossible to reconcile ourselves to it, this calamity nevertheless has genuinely occurred, for reality is not based on our human understanding but rather on something that always transcends our comprehension.

As of May 17 the number of those infected was 4,491,738, and those deceased numbered 304,619 individuals. Yet, what is vital here is to observe and grasp the truth behind these figures, and for that, all we need are imagination, patience, and hope.

What is it that is behind this Pandemic?

The surfacing of this of COVID-19 pandemic is unquestionably an event unprecedented, and yet on gazing back upon our history, we come across similar disasters, such as the plague (14th century) and Spanish Flu (1918-1920). We are now seeking to tackle each individual’s suffering, but with no mention whatever of the health and economic issues involved. All such crises are related each other. That is to say, they are ultimately based upon the same cause.

To quote David Harvey, “There is, …, no such thing as a truly natural disaster. Viruses mutate all the time to be sure. But the circumstances in which a mutation becomes life-threatening depend on human actions.” According to him, this pandemic was brought about by neo-liberalism, which has been deployed in the world for around forty years. He further states, “the progress of COVID-19 exhibits all the characteristics of a class, gendered, and racialized pandemic,” and he concludes with the words, “COVID-19 is nature’s revenge for over forty years of nature’s gross and abusive mistreatment at the hands of a violent and unregulated neoliberal extractivism.”[1] To be sure, neoliberal policies have prioritized large corporations and the wealthy on a global scale, but they failed to look back upon those who were vulnerable in all aspects.

Is this pandemic really an act of revenge by nature? Pope Francis, in an interview published in the magazine Tablet, declared, “I don’t know if these [partial catastrophes] are the revenge of nature, but they are certainly nature’s responses.” At the same time, he introduced the following words: “God always forgives, we forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives.”[2]

The world-renowned British primatologist Jane Goodall declared, “the coronavirus was caused by humanity’s disregard for nature and disrespect for animals.” She went on to assert, “We have to realize we are part of the natural world, we depend on it, and as we destroy it we are actually stealing the future from our children.”[3]

On the other hand, unexpected events are also occurring such as air pollution improvement, whereby people can enjoy the beautiful sight of the Himalayas from places 200 kms away, and it is reported also that wild animals are appearing in cities where they were unseen by people, in various parts of the world.

An invitation to Metanoia

Despite this suffering however there should also be ways to recovery, namely hope. All we need is metanoia or conversion. It is a radical transformation in our way of life, namely towards leading a simple life.

Pope Francis also affirms that this time of suffering could be an opportunity for conversion. Looking back on our earlier way of life, we need to rethink the fact that we form a part of nature. “Today I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption (Laudato Si’, 191) and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world. We need to reconnect with our real surroundings. This is the opportunity for conversion.” To accomplish this, he emphasizes the importance of consideration, especially towards the poor. “This is the moment to see the poor…But the poor are hidden…They are there but we don’t see them: they have become part of the landscape; they are things.”[4]

The pandemic of COVID-19 is certainly due to the virus. However, what are the reasons for our having arrived at such a situation? Who can deny the fact that human beings have been involved in this reality? We need to bear in mind that all creatures reside within the same one nature, and the humbler the attitude we adopt to nature, the more we shall be able to know ourselves.

From heaven the Lord looks down

And observes the children of Adam,

From his dwelling place he surveys

All who dwell on earth.

The One who fashioned together their hearts

is the One who knows all their works (Ps 33:13-15).

[1] David Harvey, “Anti-Capitalist Politics in the Time of COVID-19,” Jacobin, March 20, 2020.:

[2] “Pope Francis says pandemic can be a ‘place of conversion,’” by Austen Ivereigh in The Tablet Interview, April 8, 2020.:

[3] “Jane Goodall says ‘disrespect for animals’ caused pandemic,” in AFP news:

[4] See note 2.