A word from Jenny Cafiso, CJI Director (Spring and Summer 2021)
It is hard to speak of a just recovery from COVID-19 when I woke up to news that in my region, we have just entered the worst wave of the pandemic yet; that we could see unprecedented levels of deaths and illness. The circle is narrowing. More and more, I hear of people I know associated with the projects CJI supports in the Global South and how they are being directly affected by COVID-19.
Our partners in the Global South remind us how marginalized people in already poor countries bear the brunt of this pandemic. They are most affected not only because they are more exposed, but also because they have less access to protection against the virus. Great solidarity and acts of generosity have come out of the pandemic, but as Carmen de los Rios writes in the cover article, COVID-19 has also uncovered corruption and abuse of power in response to this deadly virus. Our partners in Colombia tell us that some people have been injected with fake vaccines; others tell us how fundamental human rights are being violated with people being denied treatment and other services.
We are in a Kairos moment, a time of great transformation and change, a time to show a new solidarity and to build a society based on new equitable structures. We speak of a just recovery, however, to ensure that it is not just a mirage, we have to enact justice now, especially in the way the pandemic is managed.
As De los Rios says, we have to give priority to Indigenous, forcibly displaced and Afro-American people; to guarantee free universal, good quality education. Fr Chilufya makes a plea not just for a more equitable access to healthcare in the future, but for the immediate implementation of a temporary waiver of the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property. This would allow for more production and distribution of vaccines in Africa, Asia and Latin America. As he says, time is of the essence.
Jayanta Patra decries the violations of human rights which have seen a dramatic increase in India during the pandemic. He makes the case that unless the response to the pandemic is based on respecting human rights now, there will not be any hope of building a more just society in the post pandemic world.
The time to build a more just society is now. This cannot happen simply with acts of charity. We need to make governments and institutions accountable, ensuring that they provide basic income and services to citizens, equitable access to vaccines and respect human rights. Time is of the essence.
Jenny Cafiso is the Executive Director of Canadian Jesuits International.