Pope Francis (via the Vatican):
In these days, our world continues to be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to the loss of so many lives. This crisis is changing our way of life, calling into question our economic, health and social systems, and exposing our human fragility.
The pandemic, indeed, calls us “to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing, a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not”. It can represent a concrete opportunity for conversion, for transformation, for rethinking our way of life and our economic and social systems, which are widening the gap between rich and poor based on an unjust distribution of resources. On the other hand, the pandemic can be the occasion for a “defensive retreat” into greater individualism and elitism.
We are faced, then, with a choice between two possible paths. One path leads to the consolidation of multilateralism as the expression of a renewed sense of global co-responsibility, a solidarity grounded in justice and the attainment of peace and unity within the human family, which is God’s plan for our world. The other path emphasizes self-sufficiency, nationalism, protectionism, individualism and isolation; it excludes the poor, the vulnerable and those dwelling on the peripheries of life. That path would certainly be detrimental to the whole community, causing self-inflicted wounds on everyone. It must not prevail.
The pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to promote public health and to make every person’s right to basic medical care a reality. For this reason, I renew my appeal to political leaders and the private sector to spare no effort to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines and to the essential technologies needed to care for the sick. If anyone should be given preference, let it be the poorest, the most vulnerable, those who so often experience discrimination because they have neither power nor economic resources.
The current crisis has also demonstrated that solidarity must not be an empty word or promise….
At the origin of this “throwaway culture” is a gross lack of respect for human dignity, the promotion of ideologies with reductive understandings of the human person, a denial of the universality of fundamental human rights, and a craving for absolute power and control that is widespread in today’s society. Let us name this for what it is: an attack against humanity itself….
It is in fact painful to see the number of fundamental human rights that in our day continue to be violated with impunity. The list of such violations is indeed lengthy, and offers us a frightening picture of a humanity abused, wounded, deprived of dignity, freedom and hope for the future. As part of this picture, religious believers continue to endure every kind of persecution, including genocide, because of their beliefs….
Refugees, migrants and the internally displaced frequently find themselves abandoned in their countries of origin, transit and destination, deprived of any chance to better their situation in life and that of their families. Worse still, thousands are intercepted at sea and forcibly returned to detention camps, where they meet with torture and abuse. Many of these become victims of human trafficking, sexual slavery or forced labour, exploited in degrading jobs and denied a just wage. This is intolerable, yet intentionally ignored by many!…
Millions of children are presently unable to return to school. In many parts of the world, this situation risks leading to an increase in child labour, exploitation, abuse and malnutrition. Sad to say, some countries and international institutions are also promoting abortion as one of the so-called “essential services” provided in the humanitarian response to the pandemic. It is troubling to see how simple and convenient it has become for some to deny the existence of a human life as a solution to problems that can and must be solved for both the mother and her unborn child.
I urge civil authorities to be especially attentive to children who are denied their fundamental rights and dignity, particularly their right to life and to schooling. I cannot help but think of the appeal of that courageous young woman, Malala Yousafzai, who speaking five years ago in the General Assembly, reminded us that “one child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world”….
Many women, however, continue to be left behind: victims of slavery, trafficking, violence, exploitation and degrading treatment. To them, and to those who forced to live apart from their families, I express my fraternal closeness. At the same time, I appeal once more for greater determination and commitment in the fight against those heinous practices that debase not only women, but all humanity, which by its silence and lack of effective action becomes an accomplice in them.