This statement is co-signed by UNHCR, the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), the Adyan Foundation and the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut.
Syrian refugee, stands inside his shelter in Arsal, where harsh winter weather has created havoc in the settlements. © UNHCR/Diego Ibarra Sánchez
Since we are all – nationals and non-nationals including refugees – in this together, we share a collective responsibility to combat the Coronavirus pandemic in the interest of our common public health, and our solidarity is crucial.
For the past four months, the world has been facing an invisible threat that has transcended geographic, ethnic or religious borders and boundaries. Hundreds of thousands of people are in pain, and the world has lost more than two hundred thousand lives, many of whom are elderly or people with chronic illnesses and thus belong to the most vulnerable segments of our society. Health, economic and social immunity fell as this “common public threat” – as labelled by the World Health Organization – invaded our human life across all its sectors.
Since then, the world, the whole world, has been living in fear of the continued uncontrollable spread of this pandemic, which we have tried to control through the strict measures that we as individuals, governments, civil society, faith-based organizations, and the private sector have taken in cooperation. The impact of the sacrifices we have all made, in the interest of our common good, was not limited to the health sphere but rather infiltrated our social life, specifically in relation to increasing poverty, the lack of resources and our incertitude regarding the challenges that lie ahead.
The deep fear that took over the hearts of a large number of the world population confined to their homes, and limited our interactions with their families, loved ones, and friends, unified our response to this pandemic; added to it, are the deeper anxieties faced by the most vulnerable who are economically unable to stay home, or by those who have no home at all. And with the same commitment that is uniting us in our fight, we have to ensure that the same deep fear is not exploited to cultivate the phobia of “others” – any “other”, either close to or far from us, including those who are living as forcibly displaced in our community; such exploitation and “negative narrative” would undermine our mutually reinforcing unity and could triggers other types of inequalities and stigma and increases the risks of social exclusion.
The virus does not discriminate between the rich and the poor, between political leaders, royalty or a grandmother, an essential service worker or a doctor and we need to work together, in solidarity, to empower and enable each other to take the precautionary measures, and detect symptoms at an early stage of infection to ensure access to care and prevent further transmissions and safeguard all communities.
Thus, based on our religious, social and humanitarian duty, and as part of our belief that we are all in this together, it is necessary to reiterate the following constants:
Building hope is a blessing in times of hardship; our religious and social responsibility calls on us all, each from his/her position, to fight fear, intimidation and always stand together, even if remotely at this stage, to rebuild the bridges which were temporarily destructed. The human fraternity bond that brings us together is stronger than any pandemic and barriers.