COVID – 19: Vatican and UN – natural allies

– Carlos M. Frota

The  UN and the Holy See, natural allies? Not in a conventional battlefield, but in struggling for a better new world, after the pandemic.

Some weeks ago, Antonio Guterres and Pope Francis appeared smiling in photos at the Vatican, where the Secretary General of the United Nations met the Roman Pontiff, for an exchange of views about the huge, dramatic consequences of the pandemics.

Guterres and Francis side by side, two men of good will, whose jobs propelled them to the world stage, representing two powerful …. and (note the ironic contradiction!) POWERLESS organizations, assigning to themselves an almost impossible task: make life worth living for present and future generations.

The common weapon for both leaders? Words. Speeches. Dialogue. Conversations. Messages. Conviction. Persuasion. No less. No more.

Who are the recipients of their messages? State and non state actors. Governments with their political agendas, internally and externally.  Economic groups, big or medium or even small, whose influence in state machines national leaders cannot underestimate. And labor unions, mandated by millions, to translate messages of hope or frustration from hundreds of millions, common people to whom a job is everything, the house, the bread on the table, the school for their children, the pay for doctors and hospitals.

PEACE, BREAD, MEDICINE

Yes, the Catholic Church and the United Nations are natural allies in this particular moment, with the  same goal:  how to build a new common house after pandemic. But not only the two organizations. Many others in fact. Actually, all the international players, big and small nations alike, pressure groups, NGOs, everybody …

After the meeting of Guterres with Pope Francis, his appeal for a universal cease fire in all conflicts around the world became a common cause of Catholic Church and the United Nations, addressed to  warring parties in local conflicts , and governments and civil societies concerned, in order to concentrate their efforts in the same direction and with all the energies necessary for a so costly struggle – to defeat coronavirus.

PEACE  NOW!

Sixteen armed groups responded positively to Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire to defeat the  pandemic, but the UN chief said that suspicion remains high because it’s difficult to convert good intentions to reality.

Guterres  said at a news conference on March 23 that his call “resonated widely, with the approval of 114 governments, several regional organizations, religious leaders and more than 200 civil society groups in all regions.”

According to an informal count maintained by the UN based on various sources, the 16 armed groups that responded positively are from Yemen, Myanmar, Ukraine, Philippines, Colombia, Angola, Libya, Senegal, Sudan, Syria, Indonesia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Secretary General said his representatives and special envoys are working, with their own involvement when necessary, “to turn expressed intentions into effective cease-fires.”

The secretary-general  believes  that “there is an opportunity for peace in Yemen.” A ceasefire negotiated by Turkey and Russia in the Idlib region of northwest Syria, the opposition’s last major stronghold, is holding, “but we still hope an end to hostilities across the country,” said Guterres.

About Afghanistan, Guterres emphasized: “We are pushing for a humanitarian ceasefire between the government and the Taliban.” But “in Libya, unfortunately, we have seen an escalation, despite all our efforts and those of many others in the international community,” he said.

Guterres insisted that all UN efforts “depend on strong political support,” and highlighted the divisions in the Security Council among its five members with veto power being an obstacle.

Guterres told reporters, “It is my hope that the Security Council will be able to find unity and take decisions that can help make the cease-fires meaningful and real.”

THE SPECTER OF HUNGER AND DISEASE

But peace is just one of the biggest challenges of the present international situation. The others are Hunger and jobs. I read: UN urges countries to avert ‘hunger catastrophe’ for millions of children.

The World Food Program and the United Nations children’s agency have urged governments to shore up the futures of the 370 million children worldwide who depend on school meals.

“For millions of children around the world, the meal they get at school is the only meal they get in a day. Without it, they go hungry, they risk falling sick, dropping out of school and losing their best chance of escaping poverty,” said David Beasley, the WFP Executive Director.

“We must act now to prevent the health pandemic from becoming a hunger catastrophe and to ensure that no one is left behind.”

JOBS, JOBS, JOBS

Half the world’s workers face losing their jobs, says the International Labour  Organization.

The loss in working hours due to the coronavirus pandemic means 1.6 billion workers may lose their livelihoods.

Nearly half the world’s workers are at immediate risk of losing their jobs, the ILO said on Wednesday.

The sobering statement will ring alarm bells in economies around the world, with every nation on the planet likely to be affected by the devastating fallout from the spread of coronavirus.

“Some 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy – almost half of the global labour force, and those at the most vulnerable end of the employment ladder – are in danger of losing their livelihoods,” said the ILO, the oldest agency of the United Nations, in its latest report.

“For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. Millions of businesses around the world are barely breathing,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

“They have no savings or access to credit. These are the real faces of the world of work. If we don’t help them now, they will simply perish.”

Could the world be heading for another financial crisis? The “informal economy” accounts for jobs that are neither taxed nor monitored by governments, and that make up a huge proportion of developing economies. Some two-thirds of the world’s working people are employed in such “grey market” jobs.

THE UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

What has the Catholic Church to offer the UN  mission to stimulate and coordinate international cooperation in this particular moment ? And what are the tools used by the Catholic Church to work with the UN and all nations of the world in this common endeavor of promoting solidarity ?

A remarkable network of global groupings and institutions to work with the people, reinforce human links in times of despair, spread the appropriate messages of compassion , coordinate cooperation …

During Mass celebrating St Joseph Worker, on May 1st,    at Santa Marta, Pope Francis talked about jobs, the dignity of work and the commitment of Christian entrepreneurs to not fire  their workers in these times of distress.

Dioceses , parishes, churches, are natural meeting points for neighbors, reinventing human bonds without necessarily leading to conversion…

Caritas is a good example. Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of almost 200 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations operating in over 200 countries and territories worldwide.

Collectively and individually, their mission is to work to build a better world, especially for the poor.

(Photo by holyseemission.org.)

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