The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), the Adyan Foundation, the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut and the UNHCR took a unified ethical stance inspired by faith, and jointly decided to meet and discuss the repercussions of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic on refugees and host communities. As they are all aware of the need to promote solidarity in order to overcome these difficult times, they issued the following joint statement:
Since we are all – nationals and non-nationals including refugees – in this together, we share a collective responsibility to combat the Coronavirus pandemic in the interest of our common public health, and our solidarity is crucial.
For the past four months, the world has been facing an invisible threat that has transcended geographic, ethnic or religious borders and boundaries. Hundreds of thousands of people are in pain, and the world has lost more than two hundred thousand lives, many of whom are elderly or people with chronic illnesses and thus belong to the most vulnerable segments of our society. Health, economic and social immunity fell as this “common public threat” – as labelled by the World Health Organization – invaded our human life across all its sectors.
Since then, the world, the whole world, has been living in fear of the continued uncontrollable spread of this pandemic, which we have tried to control through the strict measures that we as individuals, governments, civil society, faith-based organizations, and the private sector have taken in cooperation. The impact of the sacrifices we have all made, in the interest of our common good, was not limited to the health sphere but rather infiltrated our social life, specifically in relation to increasing poverty, the lack of resources and our incertitude regarding the challenges that lie ahead.
The deep fear that took over the hearts of a large number of the world population confined to their homes, and limited our interactions with their families, loved ones, and friends, unified our response to this pandemic; added to it, are the deeper anxieties faced by the most vulnerable who are economically unable to stay home, or by those who have no home at all. And with the same commitment that is uniting us in our fight, we have to ensure that the same deep fear is not exploited to cultivate the phobia of “others” - any “other”, either close to or far from us, including those who are living as forcibly displaced in our community; such exploitation and “negative narrative” would undermine our mutually reinforcing unity and could triggers other types of inequalities and stigma and increases the risks of social exclusion.
The virus does not discriminate between the rich and the poor, between political leaders, royalty or a grandmother, an essential service worker or a doctor and we need to work together, in solidarity, to empower and enable each other to take the precautionary measures, and detect symptoms at an early stage of infection to ensure access to care and prevent further transmissions and safeguard all communities.
Thus, based on our religious, social and humanitarian duty, and as part of our belief that we are all in this together, it is necessary to reiterate the following constants:
- Equal human dignity for all should be the moral compass guiding our work as based on religious texts as well as UN instruments.
- The philosophy of social solidarity is driven by the need to deepen unity and avert scapegoating in the good management of any crisis, including the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, based on the principle of the common good and the respect for all the rights of the individual, namely his right to life.
- Refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants living in & contributing to our society were forced, due to harsh conditions, to leave their homes and families, and they deserve our support and access to the same treatment, and most importantly, our respect as fellow human beings.
- Social action, aid and cooperation initiatives are most needed at this stage, as well as an awakening of our world moral conscience towards embracing good relations and strengthening communication among all actors within our communities- hosts, migrants & refugees.
Building hope is a blessing in times of hardship; our religious and social responsibility calls on us all, each from his/her position, to fight fear, intimidation and always stand together, even if remotely at this stage, to rebuild the bridges which were temporarily destructed. The human fraternity bond that brings us together is stronger than any pandemic and barriers.