The COVID-19 Coronavirus has given new meaning to the saying “sneeze in one country and the rest of the world catches a cold.” And it has certainly added new buzz phrases like ‘social-distancing’ and ‘self-quarantine’ to our vocabulary.
Unprecedented is perhaps too mild a word to describe what the world is going through as I write. Never before in this generation or several generations before us has the world been literally brought to its knees by such a fast spreading disease. The World Wars may be comparable but several analysts say this pandemic and its resulting damaging effect, economically and socially, may far outweigh those two wars.
It is incomprehensible the far-reaching global effects of this virus, and it certainly shows that we indeed live in a global village. One person in the village gets sick with an infectious disease, and the rest of the village is at imminent risk.
The world has witnessed pandemics in the past. The every 100-year cycle that has gone viral is not all together accurate as pointed out by several health experts, but the fact is that the world has experienced widespread diseases that wiped out millions of people in our past. Some caused by bacteria and others by viruses.
In this 21st century, in a world that is so closely connected due to the ease of travel and movement of people, it is clear that any deadly virus such as COVID-19 would spread as rapidly as it has done to date.
Thank God, and I can’t say that enough, Barbados, to date, has not reported a single case of an infected person. And we all should continue to pray that none raises its head here.
Undeniably, this virus has caused every human being, Barbadians not excluded, to take serious stock and do a reflection of our fragile lives. For some, it has caused fear and panic and for others, it has caused introspection. For those who have succumbed to fear and panic, we have seen their responses in flooding supermarkets, hoarding certain types of items, including toilet paper, which I find strange and interesting, and behaving in a manner that clearly reflects a person deeply affected by the circumstances unfolding around them.
Those who have chosen the path of introspection perhaps have a better grasp of what is happening and what needs to be the response. They have acknowledged the advice of our health experts and leaders who have taken charge of the situation and not fallen prey to the social media lawlessness. Our leaders must continue to play that critical role in taking charge of the circumstances which we find ourselves in, due to no fault of our own.
Very importantly, this virus has also resulted in forcing many of us to go back to the basics. Basics that were drummed into me as a young boy growing up and I am sure into so many of us. Basic hygiene that says to keep our hands clean at all times. Wash our hands before we eat, after we eat, when we use the washroom and after so many actions, the need to wash our hands thoroughly. This is a must at such a time of this virus and a must at all times, virus or no virus. The proper etiquettes of sneezing and coughing we were taught as young men and women must be practiced. Sadly, those etiquettes were lost among some and have to be reinforced due to this deadly virus.
I have chosen the path of introspection and while I admit my anxiety in trying to understand what is happening, I rely heavily on my faith to get me through this as I have relied on it with so many other challenges that have come my way. Not blind faith that prevents me from taking precautions, but a faith that teaches me: nothing except by the decree of the Almighty.
It is indeed a time of heightened anxiety, and every human being will react differently according to his or her own understanding and experiences. We have to stay focused and work together to get over whatever will come our way. We must also try to help others who may not be able to help themselves.
This virus must cause us to look at our own lives with all its limitations. No matter how much money one may have, what high political office one may hold or how famous one may be, this virus has not differentiated, it has affected one and all and can affect everyone. So take stock of your life and see where you are at.
In this technologically advanced world with all its luxuries and comforts, we have taken many things for granted. We have become complacent. We challenged nature and in many ways affected it by our materialistic lifestyles. Perhaps it is rebelling, telling us enough is enough. Perhaps it is man made as some theories purport. Whatever has caused this virus, there is no doubt that we human beings have to take it seriously, as we will be affected by it directly or indirectly.
It has certainly taught the so-called advanced world which prides itself with the highest levels of learnings, science, technology and human advancement that a virus can change all of that in a split second. A virus can subject entire countries to close their borders and order all its citizens to stay indoors. It can cripple nations, halt trade, and turn economies on its head overnight.
As a person of faith, I accept this is the decree of our Creator. And as people of faith, we should turn back to our Creator at all times, but especially at these times.
Everything about this virus has taught me more of my faith and the importance of holding on to its principles and its teachings. As a Muslim, I am expected to always have a clean mind and body. I am expected to pray five times a day. Before I pray those five times, I am expected to wash thoroughly my hands, face, arms and feet. Nothing different from what health experts are telling us to do today to help safeguard ourselves from the virus. As a Muslim I am taught not to travel to a place of disease and if I am in such a place, not to leave as I may be a carrier. Those were instructions laid down 1, 400+ years ago, long before we had world health standards.
Our respective faiths can teach us so much we need to know, especially in troubling times like these. We just need to go back to the basics.
Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace; Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association; Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI and a Childhood Obesity Prevention Champion. Email: [email protected]
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