Challenge and Transformation in Times of COVID-19: A Reflection from Nicaragua
By Rev. Jairo Arce, Executive Director of the Interchurch Center for Social and Theological Studies (CIEETS) in Managua, Nicaragua
Our context is defined by the space surrounding us and our interaction within it. This space can be virtual or natural, depending on what we mean. Its components can be biological, physical, social, economic, political, cultural, and religious. Time, the world, the cosmos, and the world system that we live, are in constant and deep transformations that are made invisible as a strategy to exert more control over humanity and creation.
Some analysts speak of new times. They say that after the appearance of COVID-19, nothing will be the same because everything has been turned upside down. The struggle between good and evil rages, desires and makes difficult the process to build a life in fullness and quality. That can take different turns, and we confront a predatory context given by the globalizing and dehumanizing capitalist world system. It seems that we move without brakes towards a final precipice in which only billionaires will be saved due to their financial ability to embark into populating other planets.
As the specialists say, challenge-based learning is a way of action and community learning. It allows us to learn with a critical attitude, reflective and active. From the analysis of reality and community research, students and churches can seek solutions to problems within the community and socio-ecclesial environments. These are related to learning based on solving social-human needs and difficulties, project-based learning, learning experiential, and service and companionship learning (Diakonia and Koinonía).
Understanding current problems allow us to search for social, political, cultural, economic, and religious answers from theological education and transformative development community. That should be linked to the formation of pastors, leaders, women and men, and churches. In that sense, we develop quality, integral, ecumenical ministries to serve communities as they rebuild their social, community, human and agro-ecological fabric. This motivates openness to mutual learning that can be meaningful and relevant to the churches and communities where we serve.
These are our main challenges for the near future:
1. We have to strengthen unity and humanitarian networks. We hope for our work as a collective effort. Humanity needs to be more cooperative. Suppose we keep ourselves alone and isolated from the actions of others. In that case, we will remain to slip in the same place, not moving forward and threatened to disappear. Strengthening the unity work also becomes an emergency to attend to in this time of opportunities.
2. We have to advance in the practice of solidarity and cooperation. This is a learned lesson for the Interchurch Center for Theological and Social Studies (CIEETS, acronym in Spanish). The collaboration of churches in the US and Europe, the participation of national churches, pastors, pastors, communities with their producers, promoters, and leaders is what has made us move forward. Without participation, solidarity, and cooperation, we cannot advance in human, spiritual and
3. We agree with sociologists, theologians-pastoralists, philosophers, economists, etc., that the world has radically changed. It has taken a massive turn because of the internet, communications, and information technology. There are new economic systems that affect the entire life of society. We face the emergence of new beliefs and religious sects, contemporary theological currents, postmodernity with all its characteristics and values. That demands the socio-humanitarian worker to transform or adapt to these new scenarios. Without a doubt, this is a world of rapid and radical changes in many aspects that we face with challenging situations. In this reality, Theological Education and Community Development must be kept in mind to respond creatively.
4. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create challenges. One learning that we have had is with virtual education. It is a reality for which a large part of the educational community was unprepared but faced it on the fly. How to virtually educate in an environment where there is not yet a strengthened educational system to offer the expected quality? Virtual distance education requires a higher organization, planning, interaction, and sustained support for all actors. These actors must understand the entire scenario that remote teaching-learning needs: the student himself, his family, the educational staff, and society.