The New Today

Letters

COVID-19 vaccination hesitation driving Grenada into spiritual reflection

Grenada is a God-conscious nation and due to the inherent belief and reliance on prayers in times of troubles, many citizens would instinctively and casually accept the Government’s declaration on 15 September 2021 of Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th as “national days for spiritual reflection”, to mean that those days are devoted for ‘Supplication and Intercession’ prayers.

Christians often make reference to the Biblical instructions of promises as in 2 Chronicles 7:14, Psalms 46:1, Psalms 50:15 and Philippians 4:6. However, this may not be the focus and intent of the powers-that-be. Therefore, in order to foster ‘unity of purpose and spirit’ towards effectiveness, much clarification is required on the term “Spiritual Reflection”.

“In recognition of the critical role of spirituality in dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic”, are those designated days to be used essentially for remembering and reviewing the extent of the presence and power of the Church in the struggle so far, and for brainstorming and boosting pertinent strategies going forward on the challenges?

Moreover, should appropriate measures by the Government be expected, based on the discoveries and resolutions from the days’ occasions? It would be very disappointing to conclude that the declaration on the Spiritual Reflection is an ‘unwilling afterthought’ of the Government.

Particularly, it seems that there has not been any heeding of the counsels of the churches for solemn reconciliations and prayers, but that the declaration was prompted in reaction to the ‘bold, passionate and forceful’ stance of Bishop Esther Baptiste.

The representative of the International Pentecostal Assemblies accuses the powers-that-be of moving away from God and attempting to save lives without taking a holistic approach, including consideration for the inputs of the Church. She was part of a religious panel on the prime time “Beyond The Headlines” programme of the Grenada Broadcasting Network on 13 September 2021, discussing “Calming Our Fears” in light of disturbing rises in positive test and death related to the endemic.

There is the acknowledgement that indeed all human capabilities come from God (Prov. 2:6) and that all human efforts are necessary for survival (James 2:26); however, it must not be missed that governments globally tend to follow the Science by excluding God, then may try Him as last resort when human reaches all limits such as in fighting the deadly virus.

Is the encouragement by the Religious Affairs Minister, Emmalin Pierre, for all Grenadians including those in the Diaspora to go before God as a nation “in reflection and prayer”, really acting as an auxiliary dimension to the various appeals of Prime Minister Keith Mitchell for the showing of “moral responsibility” by every individual in the fight against the coronavirus, COVID-19?

In his national addresses of 31 March 2021 and 3 September 2021, Mitchell placed emphasis for those in leadership and influential positions to “do the right thing for our people and for our country …. safeguard our future amidst the many uncertainties in the current global environment.”

He carefully specified, “I call on all leaders within the community — church, business, trade union, political, sports, culture, social and other media influencers — just about everyone who has a sphere of influence over any sector of the society, let us please put aside personal and organisational differences and join hands in working towards promoting and achieving the behavioural change that will ultimately protect our people …”

It shouldn’t be considered ill-mannered and ill-advised, as well as being non-caring and non-compliant, for conscious Grenadians to pose thought-provoking questions with reasonable proposals on the pronouncements and procedures by the powers-that-be.

Is the behavioural change advocated merely tied to the concerns for having herd immunity with the dictated vaccination against the dreaded virus, and that the focus of the Spiritual Reflection is all about the citizens getting sober and seeking divine help to effect that behavioural change?

Who and what decide the aspects, the scope and the mode of putting “aside personal and organisational differences”? Should the people be so naïve and docile to settle for a ‘limited peace and unity’, with the red-herring “we are battle-tested and resilient”, even amidst the perceived disorders, irregularities and uncertainties in managing the crisis locally?

In fact, should national calamities such as the present health issue be the ‘unique reason’ for bringing citizens together, and agreeing to return to wars, crimes, pain and injustice after recovery?

Whilst it is proper to commend “the religious community for its leadership” and to encourage “members with the words of Scripture to be steadfast, unmovable and always abounding in the work of the Lord”, it is even utmost important for the political directorate as the ‘chief in national leadership’ to enter seriously into deep reflection and to set the tone and example committed to “behavioural change” and “moral responsibility”. The referenced text, 1 Cor. 15:58, should also raise the consciousness and obligation of the political directorate; pointedly to ensure that their work is “of the Lord” for the nation (Prov. 29 :2). Very often many people ponder on the motive and merit of those public officials in quoting scriptures, as well as on the form of spirituality that they reverence and apply Bible texts to.

As elaborated in the past internet-circulated article “Grenada National Day Of Prayer 2020: Was Of Truth Or In Vain?”; there exist two ‘absolutely opposed’ supernatural forces or spirits in the universe, which are the spirit of God depicting good and the spirit of Satan depicting all that is evil.

The promoted Spiritual Reflection should result in a clear ‘renewed’ conscience for everyone, but critically so for the religious shepherds and the political directorate. It should result in a genuine vow by these key national figures that beyond the 25th and 26th of September “to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16 & Heb. 13:18); they had been alert and willing to have “renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully” (2 Cor. 4:2 & Heb. 10:22).

Everyone must be conscious that the process of healing towards uniting and co-operation, is not arbitrary and spontaneous, since its ingredient of respect and confidence is built on records of reputation which the Bible widely supports, as exemplified in Prov. 25: 19-20 and 26: 24-26.

“Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint. As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart. ….

He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him; When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart. Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation.”

At this juncture, it is instructive to recall and to make current and relevant the message delivered by Bishop Harvey of the Roman Catholic Church on 17th May 2020, a dedicated National Day of Prayer for thanksgiving on the epidemic. He made the point that genuine thanksgiving always begins with truth and humility and that the event should not be taken to manipulate God but rather to get in tune with Him who is the all-powerful, the all Holy One and at the very rhythm of the universe.

The religious leader touched on the humane obligation of reaching-out and sharing to the distressed “ordinary simple poor people”, especially during this period of socio-economic inconveniences. Moreover, he expressed the need for learning from the entire COVID-19 episode towards adapting for the ‘new normal’ future whilst exercising faith in God. Was value placed on that message?

The spectrum of the ‘abnormal issues’ which the Covid-19 pandemic reveals internationally, greatly surrounds negative psychological effects. Navigating those issues requires soberness, serenity, initiatives, empathy, comforting, counselling and motivating, even within uncharted waters.

The chance of contracting the raging virus, the lockdown to curb its spreading, the blow, isolation and stigma to be undergone from a positive test, and the deprivation, ostracism and ridicules of those hesitant to be, or not been, vaccinated generate fear and depression amongst the people.

The nature and intensity of unchecked fears can contribute to the statistics of fatalities, especially from people having underlined medical problems. The powers-that-be locally should know that significant reduction in stress and anger levels, with a positive and peaceful inclination and the exercising of unreserved trust in God, builds the body’s immunity.

Frantic and bullying presentations worsen the situation. The harsh reality highlighted by the health officials that the medical establishment is ill-equipped, that an Ethics Committee will be in operation to decide who will be given priority in receiving medical treatment, that a lot of people will die from the virus, and that the arrival of the number of containers for the collection of dead bodies has been inevitable would furthermore explain the plan for Spiritual Reflection in the nation.

Any scare tactics adopted in the interest of vaccination against the virus inherently promote the fear factor; and in this sense, the need for personal communion with one’s God for hope against the plague and for their souls’ life beyond earth.

J.K. Roberts