Closed door, closed hearts
The Coronavirus surprised the world. We all stopped dead in our tracks. We are all trying to deal with something new, and worse, unknown. The invisible virus shook the world. Our focus has changed. There are many interpretations, ideas, advice, attempts to find a solution. The repercussions are also many and far reaching.
The Coronavirus has turned our eyes, in large part, to ourselves. We needed to find ways to adjust to the situation, care for ourselves and our families, think about how to secure all that was necessary. In the first moments, the issue was how to shop, where to find toilette paper or dry yeast. Then, it was about how to get to work without public transport, how to get the kids to school? So many questions, so few answers.
The life we knew stopped, and a ‘new normal’ emerged. But in that transition from old to new, we became blind to the people with whom, even before this virus, we didn’t really know what to do. I’m talking about migrants. The virus finally gave us an objective reason not to think about them.
A friend of mine, who works with migrants in Great Britain, said that this situation is one in which migrants are experts of sorts. They are familiar with limited movement, as they are often locked in reception centers, legal or illegal, with some or no infrastructure, with no answers to when their situation will be resolved, often with no resources for any kind of dignified life. The situation with Coronavirus has for us become a window into the life of migrants; a life with a lot of restrictions and very limited possibilities.
After the recent earthquake in Zagreb, many people rushed to leave the city, afraid that another earthquake would soon follow. For many the pressure of it all was too great and they wanted to get away as far as possible. The police had to intervene to prevent people from leaving Zagreb so as to not risk spreading the virus to other regions. It caused a lot of frustration. Imagine that – we couldn’t move where we wanted to. I myself was frustrated because I couldn’t go to another city to see my grandson.
I’m thinking about how much money is raised and distributed to lessen the consequences of the virus on the economy. We’re talking about 1.85 billion Euro approved by the EU for the period 2021-2027. Besides that, 750 billion Euro (Next Generation EU) has been secured, as well as three ‘safety nets’ of 540 billion Euro to support workers and employers.
What I couldn’t find out anywhere is how much money is allocated for the unfortunate people who are living in reception centers or are somewhere on the road looking for a better future. But, right now is not the time to think about them because our future is on the line; our lives, the future of our children. Do these unfortunate people, about which we don’t want to think about, also have a right to life and to a future?
And the most important question – where is the church in all of this? A recent scene I saw really got me thinking. A few days ago, I visited the new camp for refugees and migrants next to Bihać in Bosnia. The camp is about 25 kilometers outside of town, in the hills, surrounded by woods. There on the clearing, on the one side is the camp, and on the opposite side, a church. This church is, of course, a cultural monument, protected by law, and closed. I stood in the middle and observed this closed church on the one side, and the camp for refugees and migrants on the other. As there are no villages in the vicinity, of course I understand why the church is closed. But this image haunts me – if the church is closed, where are the people, the people of God? Right now, their neighbors are these vulnerable people who have for years been experiencing what we have experienced in the past few months. Our experience has frustrated us. We are talking about serious mental issues due to isolation; the consequences of our children’s and families’ lives, our society as a whole. Precisely when we have the opportunity to better understand another’s experience firsthand, there is no reaction: the house of God is closed, and God’s people have vanished because they need to take care of themselves.
I don’t know why I needed to see this image, but I know I won’t forget it. I am thankful to God that he provided me with the opportunity to spend some time serving those who don’t fall into categories that will see Europe’s billions, and who don’t really have access to many of God’s houses. I am aware that I’m not doing much compared to how great the need is, but I do know that, even for a moment, I want to understand these people and show them that they matter to God.
Toma Magda, CBAid Director
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