A word from Jenny Cafiso, CJI Director (Winter 2021)
One of the first messages I received in the new year is from Fr Charles Chilufya SJ in Africa, lamenting the fact that it is unlikely that the vaccine against COVID-19 will make its way to poor countries any time soon. Fr Chilufya is the Coordinator of the Africa Task Force of the Vatican Covid-19 Commission. Among the reasons he lists for this delay are countries that can afford the vaccine will make sure it is provided to their citizens first, and more significantly, poor countries cannot afford cost-prohibitive vaccines protected by patent laws.
Yet healthcare is enshrined in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is not a privilege for only some people. Accordingly, there are international agreements to ensure healthcare is available to all by allowing licences to be issued for the production of cheaper versions of medication or “generic drugs.” For this to happen, the political will of international institutions and individual governments is required.
In his Christmas message, Pope Francis said, “In this time of darkness and uncertainty regarding the pandemic, various lights of hope appear, such as the discovery of vaccines. But for these lights to illuminate and bring hope to all, they need to be available to all.”
In this issue, we review some of the highlights of the work of Canadian Jesuits International (CJI) over the last year. To use the words of Pope Francis, it has been a time of darkness and uncertainty, but it has also been a time when many lights of hope have shone. Our Jesuit partners in Asia, Africa and Latin America have been hit hard by the pandemic. It has not only affected them personally, but it has been especially devastating for the people they accompany and serve. Yet they have responded with creativity, courage and commitment.
The testimony of Fr Rafael Moreno SJ in the cover article illustrates how COVID-19 is affecting already marginalized populations such as migrants and refugees. Yet it is in suffering and marginalization that we also find a stubborn determination to fight for life, joy and hope. The same story is repeated in each of the many projects we have supported: each of them speaks of darkness and uncertainty but also of light and hope.
As Fr Moreno says, we are at a crossroad. The choices we make now, whether it is making vaccines available to all, or welcoming refugees or migrants, or ensuring a just economic recovery where no one is excluded, will determine the future of humanity. As we begin the new year, it is up to each of us to choose to be “lights of hope.”
Jenny Cafiso is the Executive Director of Canadian Jesuits International.