Last month I travelled abroad to attend my Father-in-law’s funeral. This was the first time I had travelled since the outbreak of COVID-19. It was a weird and unfamiliar experience. Everything has changed in the way one travels to a different country. In many ways, it sharpened the fact that things are going to be different because of the pandemic for a very long time. In addition, from our work in the field of reconciliation in Palestine/Israel and from other contexts around the world, we have realised that the claim ‘COVID-19 affects all of us the same’, is simply false. It has become very clear that different communities are affected differently by the pandemic, with the poor, marginalized and discriminated suffering a lot more than the privileged and powerful. This is something we must acknowledge and address in our communities and work. It is a defining moment in history, it is going to change many areas of our lives.
Moreover, not only does the pandemic affect us differently, but our social, religious and political walls and borders have risen higher. We can hear individuals blaming entire communities for the spread of the virus, and using them as a scapegoat for an entire country’s failure. Racism of course, is often at the heart of such claims and hateful remarks. One can even claim that since the pandemic outbreak, we have seen an increase of racist remarks and attitudes.
For this very reason, promoting and facilitating reconciliation is extremely important. And as the virus does not seem to disappear in the near future, we have to show flexibility, creativity and an active mind-set in order to adapt to the restrictions. Both the virus and xenophobia are not going to leave us anytime soon. Acknowledging the reality we live in at the moment is the first step to staying active in such difficult circumstances.
Musalaha Executive Director — Salim J. Munayer