We are all going through difficult and disruptive times, and for most of us these holidays may not be very different from our normal days under lockdown. But Easter is a holiday nonetheless, and perhaps we can all use it to reflect on what is happening to us – and to the whole world – these days.
Many things that we used to take for granted, notably the freedom to move around as and when it pleases us, and the possibility to interact with anybody without fear or suspicion, have vanished. Governments have imposed restrictions on our personal lives that we only knew from morbid science fiction movies, and most people have accepted them without flinching because we understand the necessity of these measures to curb a pandemic that could kill millions of people. Traveling has been severely restricted within countries and has become nearly impossible across borders or continents. We used to call the modern world the proverbial "global village", only to find out that our personal space has suddenly become very, very small. If it wasn't for the internet, the isolation we are currently experiencing would be excruciating. The unspoken assumption of never-ending economic growth has given way to a deep uncertainty about the economic future of the world, of our home countries, and in the end, of ourselves.
It is indeed a time of anxiety, but it can also be a time to rethink what is essential for us and what we really value. A time to (re-)connect with family and friends, and to appreciate the small things in life that can enrich our lives, and which we overlooked while we were chasing bigger dreams or higher ambitions. And it is perhaps also time to think what the world after the pandemic will or should look like.
COVID-19 is not the end of the world, but it may well be the end of the world as we used to know it. If the imposed "social distancing" lasts very long, suspicion of our fellow citizens may become a subconscious habit that alters the way we interact with others. Xenophobia, already a nasty feature in many countries before the pandemic, may become widespread. Government restrictions, and perhaps surveillance, may outlive the pandemic and the need to contain it, thus undermining fundamental human rights and freedoms. The inevitable economic downturn could exacerbate pre-existing social tensions and leave the most vulnerable totally destitute.
However, none of this is inevitable. The future will not just happen, it will be what we collectively want it to be, how we shape it together. Just as fighting COVID-19 is a collective responsibility, so will the world after COVID-19 be the result of a collective effort to recover the time lost; to rebuild our lives, our societies and our economies; and to roll back the restrictions that we currently accept as necessary, when their usefulness expires. So let us not drown in anxiety and despair, but assume our responsibility in playing our role now to help contain the spread of COVID-19, but also look forward and imagine the world we would like to see re-emerging after the calamity. A world of renewed openness, creativity, humanity, and solidarity.
In Christian faith, Easter is the time of resuscitation and renewal. Whatever your religious or philosophical convictions may be, this is a time to value the symbolism of renewal. "This too shall pass", a proverb of allegedly Persian origin and repeated in the Bible and the Koran, is something to keep in mind these days. Our world, our countries, our societies will emerge with new strength and new confidence – but only if we all work for it.
With these thoughts, I wish you all a pleasant and peaceful Easter holiday, enjoy the time with your families and friends – even if it's via internet!
Christian R. Manahl Head of Delegation Delegation of the European Union to the Kingdom of Lesotho