- The coronavirus or Covid-19 has spread to all the continents save Antarctica.
- In the current uncertain and cataclysmic situation, the church has a huge impact during this pandemic.
- The church should learn how to cope with it and serve its purpose by saving and helping the world.
- Developing Our World is coping with it by helping the churches in China to serve the people in Wuhan.
Plagues – or epidemics and pandemics, as they are called in the modern world – have been around since at least 10,000 years ever since our ancestors started farming and developing the first semi-permanent settlements. These have always had the upper hand as they preyed on our strengths and turned them into our weaknesses. Like a genie in a bottle, once they are out, we cannot get them back in – but what we can do is to take every measure possible to limit the damage. With the coronavirus out on the loose, that is all that is to do now.
The coronavirus also referred to as SARS-CoV-2, is a virus that leads to an infectious disease called COVID-19. Three months ago, the world did not even know that it existed, but today, as of 1st April 2020, it has infected 848,329 people all over the world and caused as many as 41,593 deaths (as you read this article, probably this number has changed). Estimates suggest that there are many more people who have been infected by this virulent virus that we still do not know about. Up till now, 176,545 people have recovered from this disease.
The spread of this virus has created unexpected and unimaginable waves of panic and chaos all over the world. It has led to the crashing of several economies and the breaking down of several healthcare systems as it deserted the public places and filled up hospitals and graveyards. It has shaken the structure of modern society as people have been separated from their friends, relatives, and workplaces as they are forced into quarantine by personal choice or to follow precautionary measures of their local government’s lockdown in response to the prevalent threat. The coronavirus has spread to all the continents save Antarctica, and the worst affected countries include the US, China, Italy, and Spain. The rate at which it is spreading in the US, it is predicted that soon, everyone here will know somebody who has been infected.
In the current uncertain and cataclysmic situation, many additional responsibilities fall on the shoulders of the Church. At this point, the message of Jesus and the responsibility of the Christians to fulfill God’s work on Earth is now more relevant than ever before. This is why, Developing Our World, an organization that works to promote holistic community development and the application of evangelical concepts for the betterment of mankind, is serving its purpose by helping Churches continue with their noble services.
The Deadliest Pandemics in the History of Mankind
This is not the first time that a pandemic is threatening to shake humanity to the core. The plague of Justinian spread in the 6th Century, killing about 50 million people, which some estimate was half of the world’s population at that time. In the 14th Century, the Black Death, another plague that was likely caused by the same pathogen, is said to have killed as many as 200 million people. Smallpox is estimated to be the reason behind the death of up to 300 million people in the 20th Century alone, even though the world’s first effective vaccine that was created for it has been available since 1796.
Then in 1918 came an influenza pandemic that was named Spanish Flu. It infected one in every three people in the world and killed between 50 to 100 million people – more than even World War I, that was taking place at the same time. The HIV pandemic that is still ongoing and does not have a vaccine is responsible for the deaths of about 32 million people, while 75 million have been affected, and more get infected each day.
Let us discuss two of these pandemics briefly.
The Bubonic Plague – called so because it caused swelling of lymph nodes in the infected person’s groin, thigh, and armpit – spread across Europe between 1347 and 1351, killing as many as 25 million people. This was a massive loss for the whole continent as it took more than 200 years for the population levels to return to their level before 1347. This pandemic also killed higher numbers of people in Asia, and particularly in China, from it is thought that it originated.
The magnitude of the effects of this pandemic is reflected in the fact that many social changes followed it. Serfdom declined because the significant numbers of deaths resulted in an increase in the living standards of the survivors. The workers found themselves with more opportunities; there was an increase in social mobility, and warfare decreased. There was a rise in mysticism because high levels of suffering in the society posed a challenge to the religious dominance of the Roman Catholic Church. Unfortunately, there was also a rise in scapegoating and bigotry, and more cases of heightened prejudice and violence against minorities.
Spanish Flu is another name for the 1918 influenza pandemic that occurred as the World War I was ending. It was an outbreak of the H1N1 virus, and it affected an estimated 500 million people, which was the equivalent of one-third of the world’s population at that time.
This pandemic was responsible for the deaths of more than 50 million people. One factor behind its massive impact was that since it coincided with the end of World War I, there were few to none official protocols that were in place for the public health authorities to deal with the viral pandemics.
As this pandemic quickly, everything from schools to stores to churches had to be shut down to stop its spread. Church services had to be suspended, and pastors directed the believers to pray at home.
COVID-19 – The Latest Pandemic That is Impacting the Whole World Right Now
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that is presently spread in every continent besides Antarctica. It is caused by a novel coronavirus and has disrupted life throughout the world. The first case was reported on 31st December 2019 in China, from where it is thought to have originated. Within a couple of months, it has shut down cities and countries and crashed several economies. The worst initial outbreak was in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of this disease. Even though it seems to be getting control of things now, there have been vast secondary outbreaks in Europe and the US.
The World Health Organization released its first alert about this disease on New Year’s Eve. Following that, scientific research quickly linked it to coronaviruses, which is a family of pathogenic viruses that includes those that are responsible for some cases of the common cold as well as MERS and SARS diseases. It was on 11th March 2020 that Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, announced that this outbreak had been declared a pandemic – the first one caused by a coronavirus.
The novel coronavirus — the one that causes the disease — is known as SARS-CoV-2. The group “formally recognizes this virus as a sister to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaviruses (SARS-CoVs),” the species responsible for the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003.
- The novel coronavirus is officially named SARS-CoV-2.
- The disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 is officially named COVID-19.
While its exact origin is still being researched, the popular theory is that it originated from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China. More research is needed to determine how exactly it spreads. However, what is known at present is that the first infections may have been animal-to-human transmission, but then it spread through local human-to-human transmission.
According to WHO, this virus can get transmitted from person to person through:
- Respiratory droplets that are released into the air when a person coughs or sneezes.
- Direct contact with infected persons.
- Contact with contaminated objects and surfaces.
COVID-19 is much more fatal and transmissible than seasonal influenza. It is also stealthy – it can infect one host after another but remain hidden as there can be delays of several days before obvious symptoms are triggered. This is one reason why it has become a massive challenge for many nations to contain it. It requires them to develop a test and use it to identify infected individuals, put them in quarantine, and trace the people that have had contact with. Many of the worst affected countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea did this effectively. Unfortunately, some countries that supposedly possessed robust healthcare systems like Italy, Germany, Spain, and the US were unable to control the spread of the virus and are currently facing a huge challenge of preventing deaths from this disease.
It is estimated that COVID-19 will spread even more across the world and can possibly infect between 40% to 70% of the world’s population. A study by The Australian National University predicts that this disease will lead to millions of deaths and would cause a massive hit of $2.4 million to the global GDP.
While researchers are striving to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, at present, the best thing that can be done is to prevent more people from getting the disease. For that, social distancing has been suggested. This means that we all try to stay six feet apart and remain at home as much as possible.
The Impact on the Churches
Amidst this cataclysm, churches all around the world had to shut down, just like it happened during the time of Black Death and Spanish Flu.
Since isolating the infected people is one of the main ways of limiting the spread of this disease, Church leaders have canceled the services and opted to move them online with the help of technological tools that are available nowadays, such as Zoom. The Pope has also canceled the public Mass that commemorates Easter this year, the largest Christian public gathering to be canceled as a result of the pandemic. While many churches were already involved in online activities, such as internet campuse
s, prayer web forums, live streams, apps, and podcasts, almost all of them have switched to the Internet to continue with the rituals while maintaining social distancing.
In this regard, here is a famous quote by reformer Martin Luther extracted from a letter that he wrote, quoted by Rev. Dr. John Hess, titled “Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague” – (Luther’s Works Volume 43 pg. 132)
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and people where my presence is not needed in order to not become contaminated, and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me, and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
In this letter, Martin Luther discussed the difference vocations that God has called us to do. While some people are called to do life-saving work, others are called to act for the common good, for example, by protecting others through protecting themselves.
Developing Our World Supports the Church in its Noble Service to Mankind
Pandemics are, no doubt, terrifying. The primary reasons why this is so include the lack of control of disease and its consequences, such as disruption, quarantine and uncertainty. However, Christians can cope with this pandemic by aligning themselves all the more with the mission of Jesus. This is a good time to repent, although daily repentance is part of the Christian life. We should also be vigilant and guard ourselves against evil temptations. Being a Christian also means that one joyfully sacrifices for the sake of others – whether it is serving ailing patients in the front lines or, in this ironic situation, by staying at home and maintaining a safe distance from neighbors so that we all are protected from harm. We should also devote ourselves to God in both good and bad times and be hospitable towards both friends and strangers.
At the core of the Church’s charity, we find care and concern for spiritual good as well as the eternal salvation of souls. The coronavirus pandemic has offered the Church hierarchy the opportunity to act as the true shepherds that they are rather than “hired hands” (see John 10:11-12).
As Pope Francis has written,
“The government has the duty to guarantee care and material sustenance for the people, but we have the duty to do the same for their souls. May it never be said: ‘I’m never going back to a church where no one came to find me when I needed help.'”
In support of this mission, Developing Our World is partnering with health organizations, churches, and other organizations. As an application of the holistic community development approach, we help them get immediate assistance so that they can cope with this pandemic. For instance, we are strengthening the Christian Church in China with financial donations to help them cope with this situation.
(For the safety of these churches, their names are not being mentioned as they are being persecuted at present. However, if you need to know for a positive purpose, please contact us.)
Join hands with us and help us fulfill Jesus’s mission on Earth. Visit our website for more details.