It all started like a fairy tale in a faraway land. China seemed to be so remotely connected to Uganda. However, intrigued by this story I listened to BBC every morning as I drove to work. This unfolding story seemed to be gaining momentum and numbers. It then sounded like the proximity of COVID-19 to Uganda was closer. COVID-19 soon became a global bug and it was only a matter of days before we would face off.
The conspiratorial twists and rumours continued to proliferate our communities. This coupled with finger pointing became the new debate. There are some in our midst who still believe it does not exist! As one quashes all these theories, another group decides it is a manifestation of divine wrath. This then conjures up a new theology. While these theories are a source of conversation, a form of social currency during the universal incarceration, these understandings do not preclude taking public health measures advised by the government. Why? Beyond a shadow of doubt, at the bosom of this debate it is about life and death.
The battle lines have been drawn in people’s minds and they have got to see and touch the enemy if they are to confront him. The challenge with all this is that a new unprecedented reality has kicked in.
To change the COVID-19 tide, Governments declared a lockdown. “The virus does not move, it is people who move the virus.” The communities wondered how we would survive. “For one to eat, one has to work” and one therefore has to move. How does one have both sides of the bargain? Sadly “you cannot have your cake and eat it.” This was a new dawn, and sacrifices had to be made in the name of protecting and preserving life.
Desperate times provoke desperate measures. I remember having this discussion with someone and reminding him of the utilitarian principle; that actions are right to the degree that they tend to promote the greatest good for the greatest number. The idea of being confined to one place until the unforeseeable future was daunting. However, civil obedience was the way to respond.
The leadership in Tanzania where we have network partners decided that they would not take this route. The communities continue to interact with each other unabated. In the church, whereas the adults practice the unstipulated rule of “physical distancing” the little children’s church knows no such rules. Travellers in communal transport squash themselves in these vehicles like COVID-19 is just a myth. There are many deaths but no one will commit to attributing them to the Coronavirus. It is in fact illegal to publicly talk about this virus. After all, who can claim to know the situation? Whereas the rest of the world has bravely embraced this new reality and consequently the “new normal”, my friends linger on in their world! God has in many ways remained so gracious. I fear though, what will happen when the cake is no more?
Our network partner, MCAN have decided to be the remnant. In spite of the limitations and odds, they have quietly remained the lone voice in the local church. Churches are made aware of this “silent holocaust” as one that can be prevented. They are alerting them to the need for safety for the children. There is a lot that remains to be done.
Real collective action brings about holistic change for children on a larger scale than any one organisation could achieve on their own. Please pray for courage and wisdom under these circumstances. Pray that the church will indeed be the light of the world. Pray for Viva as we work to change more children’s lives, more effectively.