The coronavirus pandemic will usher in a new world order that will permanently change global politics and international relations.
This was the warning issued by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences, in a statement he released on May 9.
The prelate joined religious leaders around the world in appealing for everyone to set aside “a day for fasting, prayers and supplications” on May 14 as a sign of solidarity during the pandemic.
“I want to encourage all to live this time fruitfully, generously, and with hope. Let us look out for one another,” said Cardinal Bo.
In his message, the archbishop of Yangon called for an end to hatred and for all nations to “put weapons aside and face the common enemy that is attacking all humanity.”
He then enumerated a list of “serious problems” that have been confronting society even before the coronavirus outbreak.
“Inequality was rampant, between and within nations,” he said, adding that the global health crisis only made the poor — slum dwellers, day laborers, returning migrant workers — suffer more.
“People on the periphery of society have long been neglected,” said Cardinal Bo.
He also noted an “epochal change characterized by fear, xenophobia, and racism” during the pandemic and the rise of “populist leaders.”
“The antidote to populism lies in the efforts of organized citizens who are ready to promote the experience of the ‘we’ over the cult of the self,” said the prelate.
The cardinal urged people to take advantage of the time of the pandemic to “imagine and prepare for a changed world.”
“The question to ask ourselves is ‘what sort of world do we want when the storm passes’?” he said, adding that there will be “no return to business as usual.”
“Many decisions and practices adopted in a time of crisis become permanent. That applies to the way governments decide their priorities and it applies to small things at home,” he said.
Cardinal Bo said it is high time “to realize how we depend on one another and to learn to work collectively and cooperatively, sharing responsibilities, and appreciating solidarity.”
He noted how conflicts, especially in the Asian region, have affected the lives of people, especially the poor.
“Why did we allow so much division in the world? Why has such conflict been allowed to consume Myanmar for so many decades?” he said.
“Why are parts of the Philippines and Asia subjected to such dispute? Why do we have in Asia the longest-running wars in the world?” added the cardinal.
Cardinal Bo said people should not wait for the health crisis to end before doing something. “We must be proactive. Start moving,” he said.
He said “solutions won’t reveal themselves by waiting,” and the world should start to “build working relationships of trust that will stand by you for decades to come.”