Δευτέρα 30 Μαρτίου 2020

Africa: The World Before This Coronavirus and After Cannot Be the Same

With COVID-19 infections now evident in 176 countries, the pandemic is the most significant threat to humanity since the second world war. Then, as now, confidence in international cooperation and institutions plumbed new lows.
While the onset of the second world war took many people by surprise, the outbreak of the coronavirus in December 2019 was a crisis foretold. Infectious disease specialists have been raising the alarm about the accelerated pace of outbreaks for decades. Dengue, Ebola, SARS, H1N1, and Zika are just the tip of the iceberg. Since 1980, more than 12,000 documented outbreaks have infected and killed tens of millions of people around the world, many of them the poorest of the poor. In 2018, the World Health Organisation (WHO) detected outbreaks of six of its eight "priority diseases" for the very first time.
No one can say we weren't warned.
Even as we attend to the countless emergencies generated by COVID-19, we need to think deeply about why the international community was so unprepared for an outbreak that was so inevitable. This is hardly the first time we've faced global catastrophes.
The second world war reflected the catastrophic failure of leaders to learn the lessons of the 1914-1918 war. The creation of the United Nations and Bretton Woods institutions in the late 1940s and early 1950s provided some grounds for optimism, but these were overshadowed by the Cold War. Moreover, the Reagan and Thatcher revolutions of the 1980s rolled back the capacity of governments to address inequality through taxation and redistribution and governments' ability to deliver health and essential services.
The capacity of international institutions to regulate globalisation was undermined precisely at a time when they were most needed. The 1980s, 1990s and 2000s were a period of rapidly rising cross-border movements of trade, finance and people. The accelerated flow of goods, services and skills is one of the principal reasons for the most rapid reduction of global poverty in history. Since the late 1990s, more than 2 billion people have climbed out of extreme poverty. Improved access to employment, nutrition, sanitation and public health, including vaccine availability, added over a decade in average life expectancy to the world's population.
But international institutions failed to manage the downside risks generated by globalisation.
Far from empowering the United Nations, the world is governed by divided nations, who prefer to go it alone, starving the institutions designed to safeguard our future of the necessary resources and authority. The WHO shareholders, not its personnel, have failed dismally to ensure it can exercise its vital mandate to protect global health.

Butterfly defect

As the world becomes more connected, it also necessarily becomes more interdependent. This is the dark underbelly, the butterfly defect of globalisation, that if left unmanaged inevitably means that we will suffer escalating, increasingly dangerous systemic risks.
One of the most graphic demonstrations was the 2008 financial crisis. The economic meltdown reflected a dangerous negligence by public authorities and experts in managing the growing complexities of the global financial system. Not surprisingly, the carelessness of the world's political and economic elite cost them dearly at the ballot box. Campaigning on an explicitly anti-globalisation and anti-expert ticket, populists stormed to power.
Emboldened by public outrage, they have followed an ancient tradition, blaming foreigners and turning their backs on the outside world. The US president, in particular, spurned scientific thinking, spawned fake news, and shunned traditional allies and international institutions.
With evidence of infections rising fast, most national politicians now recognise the traumatic human and economic costs of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control's worst-case scenario is that about 160 million to 210 million Americans will be infected by December 2020. As many as 21 million will need hospitalisation and between 200,000 and 1.7 million people could die within a year. Harvard University researchers believe that 20% to 60% of the global population could be infected, and conservatively estimate that 14 million to 42 million people might lose their lives.
The extent to which direct and excess mortality is prevented depends on how quickly societies can reduce new infections, isolate the sick and mobilise health services, and on how long relapses can be prevented and contained. Without a vaccine, COVID-19 will be a hugely disruptive force for years.

Where the damage will be worst

The pandemic will be especially damaging to poorer and more vulnerable communities within many countries, highlighting the risks associated with rising inequality.
In the US, over 60% of the adult population suffers from a chronic disease. Around one in eight Americans live below the poverty line - more than three-quarters of them live from paycheque to paycheque and over 44 million people in the US have no health coverage at all.
The challenges are even more dramatic in Latin America, Africa and South Asia, where health systems are considerably weaker and governments less able to respond. These latent risks are compounded by the failure of leaders such as Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil or Narendra Modi in India to take the issue seriously enough.
The economic fallout from COVID-19 will be dramatic everywhere. The severity of the impacts depends on how long the pandemic lasts, and the national and international response of governments. But even in the best case it will far exceed that of the 2008 economic crisis in its scale and global impact, leading to losses which could exceed $9 trillion, or well over 10% of global GDP.
In poor communities where many individuals share a single room and depend on going to work to put food on the table, the call for social isolation will be very difficult if not impossible to adhere to. Around the world, as individuals lose their incomes, we should expect rapidly rising homelessness and hunger.
In the US a record 3.3 million people have already filed for unemployment benefit, and across Europe unemployment similarly is reaching record levels. But whereas in the richer countries some safety net exists, even though it is too often in tatters, poor countries simply do not have the capacity to ensure that no-one dies of hunger.
With supply chains broken as factories close and workers are quarantined, and consumers prevented from travelling, shopping, other than for food, or engaging in social activities, there is no scope for a fiscal stimulus. Meanwhile monetary policy has been stymied as interest rates are already close to zero. Governments therefore should focus on providing all in need with a basic income, to ensure that no-one starves as a result of the crisis. While the concept of basic income guarantees seemed utopian only a month ago, it now needs to be at the centre of every government's agenda.

A global Marshall plan

The sheer scale and ferocity of the pandemic demands bold proposals. Some European governments have announced packages of measures to keep their economies from grinding to a halt. In the UK, the government has agreed to cover 80% of wages and self-employed income, up to £2,500 ($2,915) per month, and is providing a lifeline to firms. In the US, a previously unthinkable aid package of $2 trillion has been agreed, though this is likely just the beginning. A gathering of G20 leaders also resulted in a pledge of $5 trillion, though details are slim.
The COVID-19 pandemic provides a turning point in national and global affairs. It demonstrates our interdependence and that when risks arise we turn to governments, not the private sector, to save us.
The unprecedented economic and medical response in the rich countries is simply not available to many developing countries. As a result the tragic implication is the consequences will be far more severe and long lasting in poorer countries. Progress in development and democracy in many African, Latin American and Asian societies will be reversed. Like climate and other risks, this global pandemic will dramatically worsen inequality within and between countries.
A global Marshall plan, with massive injections of funding, is urgently needed to sustain governments and societies.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not the death knell of globalisation, as some commentators have suggested. While travel and trade are frozen during the pandemic, there will be a contraction or deglobalisation. In the longer term the continued growth in incomes in Asia, which is home to two-thirds of the world's population, is likely to mean that travel, trade and financial flows will resume their upward trajectory.
But in terms of physical flows, 2019 will likely go down in history as the time of peak supply chain fragmentation. The pandemic will accelerate the reshoring of production, reinforcing a trend of bringing production closer to markets that was already under way. The growth of robotics, artificial intelligence and 3D printing, together with customers expecting quick delivery of increasingly customised products, politicians eager to bring production home, and businesses seeking to minimise the price of machines, removes the comparative advantages of low-income countries.
It is not only manufacturing which is being automated, but also services such as call centres and administrative processes that now can be more cheaply done by computers in the basement of a headquarters than by people at distant locations. This poses profound questions about the future of work everywhere. It is a particular challenge for low income countries with a young population of work seekers. Africa alone expects 100 million workers to enter the labour market over the next 10 years. Their prospects were unclear before the pandemic struck. Now they are even more precarious.

Implications for political stability

At a time when faith in democracy is at its lowest point in decades, deteriorating economic conditions will have far-reaching implications for political and social stability. There is already a tremendous trust gap between leaders and citizens. Some political leaders are sending mixed signals and citizens are receiving conflicting messages. This reinforces their lack of trust in public authorities and "the experts".
This lack of trust can make responding to the crisis much more difficult at the national level, and also has undermined the global response to the pandemic.
While making urgent calls for multilateral cooperation, the United Nations is still missing in action, having been sidelined by the major powers in recent years. Promising to inject billions - even trillions - into the response, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund will need to ramp up their activities to have a meaningful impact.
Owing to a shortage of international leadership from the US, cities, businesses and philanthropies are stepping up. China has gone from villain to hero in responding to the pandemic, partly by extending its soft power - in the form of doctors and equipment - to affected countries. Singaporean, South Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, Italian, French and Spanish researchers are actively publishing and sharing their experience, including by fast-tracking research on what works.
So far, some of the most inspiring action is nongovernmental. For example, city networks such as the US Conference of Mayors and National League of Cities are rapidly sharing good practice on how to keep infectious diseases from spreading, which should improve local responses. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributed $100 million to expanding local health capacities in Africa and South Asia. Groups like Wellcome Trust, Skoll, the Open Society Foundations, the UN Foundation, and Google.org are also scaling up assistance.
Needless to say, the complexities of globalisation will not be resolved by appeals to nationalism and closed borders. The spread of COVID-19 must be met with a similarly coordinated international effort to find vaccines, mobilise medical supplies and, when the volcanic dust settles, to ensure that we never again face what could be an even deadlier disease.
Now is not the time for recriminations: it is the time for action. National and city governments, businesses, and ordinary citizens around the world must do everything they can to flatten the epidemic curve immediately, following the examples set by Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Hangzhou and Taiwan.

Coalition of the willing must lead global response

Now more than ever, we need a comprehensive global response. The Group of Seven and G20 leading economies appear rudderless under their current leadership. While promising to ensure attention to the poorest countries and to refugees, their recent virtual meeting offered too little too late. But this cannot be allowed to stop others acting to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. In partnership with G20 nations, a creative coalition of willing countries should take urgent steps to restore confidence not just in the markets but in global institutions.
The European Union, China and other nations will have to step up and lead a global effort, dragging the US into a global response which includes accelerating vaccine trials and ensuring free distribution once a vaccine and antivirals are found. Governments around the world will also need to take dramatic action toward massive investments in health, sanitation and basic income.
Eventually, we will get over this crisis. But too many people will have died, the economy will be severely scarred, and the threat of pandemics will remain. The priority then must be not only recovery, but also establishing a robust multilateral mechanism for ensuring that a similar or even worse pandemic never again arises.
There is no wall high enough that will keep out the next pandemic, or indeed any of the other great threats to our future. But what these high walls will keep out is the technologies, people, finance and most of all the collective ideas and will to cooperate that we need to address pandemics, climate change, antibiotic resistance, terror and other global threats.
The world Before Coronavirus and After Coronavirus cannot be the same. We must avoid the mistakes made throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries by undertaking fundamental reforms to ensure that we never again face the threat of pandemics.
If we can work together within our countries to prioritise the needs of all our citizens, and internationally to overcome the divides that have allowed the threats of pandemics to fester, out of the terrible fire of this pandemic a new world order could be forged. By learning to cooperate we would not only have learnt to stop the next pandemic, but also to address climate change and other critical threats.
Now is the time to start building the necessary bridges at home and abroad.

Ian Goldin, Professor of Globalisation and Development; Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Technological and Economic Change, University of Oxford and Robert Muggah, Associate Lecturer, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio)

Σάββατο 28 Μαρτίου 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Africa


Africa: The World Before This Coronavirus and After Cannot Be the Same

As COVID-19 Pandemic Rages, Women and Girls Are Even More At Risk

East Africa: EA Health Ministers Draw Covid – 19 Mitigation Plan 

Africa: Aid Organizations Scramble to Plan for COVID-19 Shutdowns

Nigeria: ‘Lagos’ COVID-19 Cases May Rise to 39,000′

Cameroon: Nation Should Protect Prison Population From COVID-19 

Ghana: Summary of the Restrictions Imposed on Selected Areas by Govt for Two Weeks

Coronavirus: 150 Tunisians self-isolate in factory to make masks

Morocco allocates cash for 100 000 coronavirus test kits

Nigeria struggles towards shutdown as virus fears grow

Central African Republic steps up measures after virus case

Coronavirus in Cameroon: Can the virus be a catalyst for peace?

WHO warns of ‘dramatic evolution’ of virus in Africa

Congo-Kinshasa: Lawyers Oppose Contacting Victims Before Setting Ntaganda Reparations Award 

Kenya: Dozens Injured As Police Brutality Marks Start of Curfew 

Uganda police shoot 2 for violating movement ban

Senegal: 10-minute coronavirus test may be on its way – for $1

Virus fears prompt Zimbabwe to let citizens pay in US dollars

Africa: MSF Calls For No Patents or Profiteering on COVID-19 Drugs, Tests, Vaccines

COVID-10 in Africa

Mozambique: Number of COVID-19 Cases Rises to Seven

Namibia: Lodge Locked Down After French Tourist Tests Positive For COVID-19

South Africa: COVID-19 – Testing to Be Ramped Up and New Tests in Pipeline

South Africa: The First Two Coronavirus Deaths – This Is What We Know

Seychelles: China, Abu Dhabi Donate Tonnes of Medical Supplies to Seychelles to Fight COVID-19


Δευτέρα 23 Μαρτίου 2020

Patriarchate of Alexandria & all Africa & Orthodox Christian Mission Center about Coronavirus Pandemic


In the Orthodox Vineyard of Africa

Uganda Orthodox Church (photo from here)

"We would like to express to all of you our concern over the Corona-19 epidemic and our sympathy for the injured. -
Due to the situation, all the Archbishops, the priests of the Patriarchate of Alexandria should comply with the orders and decisions of the state in which they are.
"Our Holy Church should not be the cause of the spread of the Corona epidemic but an example of social solidarity and love."
17. March 2020
The Great City of Alexandria."

OCMC and Coronavirus Response

by Fr. Martin Ritsi (Posted 3/20/2020)
Orthodox Christian Mission Center
"As the universality of the pandemic is brought before our eyes, it confirms another reality that is much greater, and that is the love of our Lord."

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
As our world faces unprecedented challenges, I am writing to offer our prayers, compassion, and encouragement, along with informing you of how the pandemic is being dealt with at OCMC and with our missionaries around the world.
In this time of trouble, we offer our prayers for all who are suffering in the wake of the pandemic: whether physically, emotionally, financially, or other ways, for their health, recovery, protection, and encouragement. We offer our thanks to the many who continue their services and outreach to humanity - from health care workers to religious and civil leaders, community servants, people continuing to offer services in public spaces where they are vulnerable, and, of course, our missionaries, who continue to serve in very difficult conditions.
The rapid spread and tracking of this virus reveals many things. We see how closely-knit the world is today. Borders between nations, race, social classes, and religions are bypassed. Information is shared at lightning speed. We are presented with hourly updates on impacts happening locally and in the most faraway places.
As the universality of the pandemic is brought before our eyes, it confirms another reality that is much greater, and that is the love of our Lord, which goes even further in uniting and crossing all imaginable divides. Within our countries, cultures, cities, and daily lives, it is sometimes difficult to imagine our connection to people and places outside these boundaries. Yet, the love and the concern of the Lord is not limited to these boundaries. We are all a part of His Creation. We are His children, and in His eyes we are all equally loved.
I mentioned those who are sacrificially offering themselves in these difficult times and potentially placing themselves in harm’s way. In reflecting on these examples, we can be encouraged. I was left in awe as I reflected on two examples from our OCMC missionaries. At the same time the Peace Corps called for the evacuation of all its volunteers worldwide, some of our missionaries, who had been in the United States raising support for another term, were jumping over hurdles to return to the people they serve. One reached a remote border crossing, only hours before it was to be closed, and had to talk his way past the guards, showing a newspaper clipping that proved he was still permitted to enter. He is now in quarantine for two weeks but living in solidarity with the people he serves. Another missionary, a mother with her two children, will be boarding an airplane tomorrow, not certain if the flight will be canceled, or if they will get stranded along the way. Though all were offered the option of evacuation, none of OCMC’s missionaries have left their countries of service due to the crisis.
Our missionaries are providing examples of social responsibility as they support government and Church guidelines to help slow the spread of the pandemic. OCMC, too, is joining in this effort to do what we can. Beginning tonight, March 20th, our offices will operate remotely. All services provided by staff will continue, but we have postponed April retreats scheduled at OCMC and the May Mission Teams. We still hope things will subside by June, but in case they don’t, our Executive Board has already initiated policies to allow funds that have been raised by team members to be used by them for later teams, or to be applied to future teams in the same locations.
These are just some of the ways that OCMC is participating in what must be a worldwide effort to continue responsibly with hope, doing what we can do individually and together, to address the spread of the coronavirus, and to have compassion on those who are most vulnerable. We encourage all to join in this response. We also humbly ask that in this time of uncertainty you remember, pray for, and support our missionaries who continue to serve around the world as part of our efforts to spread the love of Christ, who is the Healer of our souls and bodies.
In closing, we offer this prayer for you and for all. Please pray with us:
O God Almighty, Lord of heaven and earth, and of all creation visible and invisible, in Your goodness look down on Your people. Be our helper and defender in this day of affliction. You know our weakness. You hear our cry in repentance and contrition of heart.
O Lord who loves humanity, deliver us from the growing threats of the coronavirus. Send Your angels to watch over us and protect us. We ask that you slow the spread of the virus and help us do what we can to slow its spread.
Grant health, recovery, protection, and encouragement to those suffering from its effects: whether physically, emotionally, financially, or in any other way.
Guide the hands of the physicians, healthcare workers, and all those who continue to serve Your people in the face of this threat.
And preserve us all, O Lord, that we may continue to serve You in peace and glorify Your most honorable and majestic Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forevermore. Amen.
May the Lord bless, protect, and guide you in these days.
In His love,
Fr. Martin Ritsi
Executive Director, OCMC

Σάββατο 21 Μαρτίου 2020

Saint Siluan of Mount Athos - Three wonderful publications in Swahili, Kikuyu and Masai...

The book by Saint Sophrony on his Spiritual Father and Elder, Saint Siluan of Mount Athos

romfea.gr (in Greek)
Translation A. N.

For many decades, we have been making a humble attempt to put our sacred Services into circulation in the local African dialects.
And I believe that we have succeeded, with the help of the professors and the seminary students of our Patriarchal School "Archibishop of Cyprus Makarios III".
We have already published the Sacramental texts of our Church for the Holy Week of Easter, the Offices for the 40 days of Great Lent, the Pentecost, Orthodoxy Sunday, Theophany, the Akathist hymn, the supplications to the Holy Mother, the Easter Sunday Vespers of Love, the Liturgies of Saint John Chrysostom and of Saint Basil the Great, the Service of the Pre-sanctified Gifts, etc., in more than 30 dialects - not only of
Kenya, but also Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia... even Catechisms in various dialects.
It can easily be named "Book of Blessings", since several of the aforementioned Services are included in a separate volume.
These publications of the specific volume were the fruits of the benefit that the seminary students had acquired, when they were so deeply impressed during the evening readings, that they themselves asked if they could translate them into Swahili, Kikuyu and Masai and for my benefit also, a debt and respect for the person of the Elder and my Spiritual Father - and now Saint - Sophrony.
The images on the front and the back cover were kindly prepared by the sisters of the Essex Monastery and the exact words of Saint Siluan were written in local dialects, entirely unexpectedly.
This year we began to read the texts of Great Lent in English, which is the common language of all the seminary students, followed by discussions.

Το βιβλίο του Αγίου Σωφρονίου για τον Άγιο Σιλουανό τον Αθωνίτη σε τρεις αφρικανικές γλώσσες

Για πολλές τώρα δεκαετίες κάνουμε μια ταπεινή προσπάθεια να κυκλοφορήσουμε στις τοπικές αφρικανικές διαλέκτους τις ιερές μας ακολουθίες.
Και πιστεύω ότι κάτι κάναμε με τη βοήθεια των καθηγητών και ιεροσπουδαστών της Πατριαρχικής μας Σχολής «Αρχιεπίσκοπος Κύπρου Μακάριος ο Γ΄».
Ήδη εκδώσαμε την Αγία Εβδομάδα τα μυστήρια της Εκκλησίας μας, τις ακολουθίες της Μεγάλης Τεσσαρακοστής, Πεντηκοστής, Ορθοδοξίας, Επιφανείων, Ακαθίστου Ύμνου, Παρακλήσεις στην Παναγία, Εσπερινό της Αγάπης, Λειτουργίες Ιωάννου Χρυσοστόμου, Μεγάλου Βασιλείου, Προηγιασμένων Δώρων κ.τ.λ. σε περισσότερες από τριάντα διαλέκτους όχι μόνο της Κένυας, αλλά Ζιμπάμπουε, Νιγηρίας, Ουγκάντας, Ζάμπιας … Ακόμα και Κατηχήσεις σε διάφορες διαλέκτους.
Μπορεί άνετα να ονομασθεί Ευχολόγιον, αφού σε ξεχωριστό τόμο περιλαμβάνονται αρκετές από τις προαναφερθείσες ακολουθίες.
Οι εκδόσεις αυτές του συγκεκριμένου τόμου ήταν καρπός της ωφέλειας που προσκόμισαν οι ιεροσπουδαστές, όταν στη βραδινή ανάγνωση εντυπωσιάστηκαν τόσο που ζήτησαν να το μεταφράσουν στα Σουαχίλι, Κικούγιου και Μασάι και για δική μου οφειλή, χρέος και σέβας προς το πρόσωπό του Γέροντα και Πνευματικού μου Πατέρα, τώρα Αγίου, Σωφρονίου.
Οι εικόνες του εξώφυλλου και οπισθόφυλλου φιλοξενήθηκαν από τις αδελφές της Μονής στο Έσσεξ και γράφτηκαν στις τοπικές διαλέκτους τα αυτούσια λόγια του Αγίου Σιλουανού σε ανύποπτο χρόνο.
Αρχίσαμε και φέτος με την έναρξη της Μ. Τεσσαρακόστης να διαβάζουμε στ’ Αγγλικά που είναι η κοινή γλώσσα όλων των ιεροσπουδαστών και στη συνέχεια γίνεται συζήτηση.

St Silouan of Mount Athos (from here)
Saint Silouan was born Simeon Ivanovich Antonov in 1866 to pious Orthodox parents in the Tambov region of Russia.  His youth was much like other village young people of his day and much like the lives of many youth today. While he was attracted at times to the spiritual life and seeking God, he was more attracted by the pleasures of village life.   He worked as a carpenter on the estate of a nearby noble and spent his free time drinking vodka with his friends, playing his concertina and socializing with the village girls.  It was said that he could drink three bottles of vodka without feeling any effects.  Young, strong and handsome he was popular with these girls and one evening fell into the sin of fornication.  On one occasion a young man who had too much to drink and wanting to show off for the girls, threatened Simeon and tried to take his concertina.  In Simeon’s own words:
 At first I thought of giving in to the fellow but then I was ashamed of how the girls would laugh at me, so I hit him a great blow to the chest.  His body shot away and he fell backwards with a heavy thud in the middle of the road.  Froth and blood trickled from his mouth.  All the onlookers were horrified.  So was I.  “I’ve killed him,” I thought, and stood rooted to thespot… It was over half an hour before he could rise to his feet.
One day, shortly before he began his required military service, he dozed off to a light sleep and dreamt that a snake crawled down his throat.  He woke up to hear a voice saying: “Just as you found it loathsome to swallow a snake in your dream, so I find your ways ugly to look upon”.  Simeon later reported he saw no one but was convinced that it was the beautiful voice of the Mother of God coming to rescue him from the evil pit his life had become.  This vision/dream would alter the rest of his life, he began to be ashamed of how he was living his life.  As an example of the change in him, one evening, while serving his military service, he and a few of his friends went to a tavern where there was much loud music, dancing and carousing.  Simeon sat quietly and hardly spoke which led his companions to inquire why he was so quiet.  Simeon said:
I’m thinking that here we sit in a tavern, eating, drinking vodka, listening to music and enjoying ourselves, while at this very hour on Mount Athos they are in
church for vespers and will be at prayer all night.  And I’m wondering which of us will put up the best defense before God’s Judgment Seat – them or us?
At the age of twenty-seven in 1892 he left his native Russia and came to Mount Athos, where he became a monk at the Monastery of St. Panteleimon and was given the name Silouan, the Russian version of the Biblical name Silvanus. He was given the obedience (work duty) at the monastery mill, sleeping little, fasting severely and praying continually.  He struggled against sinful memories from his past life and practiced the Jesus Prayer.  Though barely literate, he received the grace of unceasing prayer and saw Christ in a vision. After long years of spiritual trial, he acquired great humility and inner stillness. He prayed and wept for the whole world as for himself, and he put the highest value on love for enemies.

He was never ordained to the diaconate or priesthood but continued his ministry as a monk in which he devoted himself to praying for all people. A monk is a man who prays for the whole world….. I tell you that when we have no more men of prayer the world will come to an end and great disaster will befall – as, indeed, is happening already.
Having repented and received God’s mercy for his past life, Father Silouan felt great compassion for all people.  He wrote:  “But when a man sees in himself the light of deliverance from sin there awakens in his soul a mighty compassion for all who ‘fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23) and prayer for the ‘whole Adam’ fills his being.” 
After a period of time, Father Silouan was appointed one of the stewards of St. Panteleimon’s monastery, helping in the administration of a monastery with over 1,000 monks and overseeing 200 laymen who worked in the monastery’s many workshops.  After assigning the work tasks for the day, Father Silouan would return to his room to pray and weep for the men who had left their families in their villages to seek employment in far off Mount Athos.  He wrote:
He who has the Holy Spirit in him, however slight a degree, sorrows day and night for all mankind.  His heart is filled with pity for all God’s creatures, more especially for those who do not know God, or who resist Him, and therefore are bound for the fire of torment.  For them, more than for himself, he prays day and night, that all may repent and know the Lord. 
Father Silouan died in the monastery after an illness on September 24, 1938. He was glorified by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1987 and his relics are enshrined in the St. Panteleimon’s Monastery on Mount Athos.  His writings were edited by his disciple and pupil, Archimandrite Sophrony who later established a monastery in England and became known as a staretz himself. 

Please, see also

Elder Sophrony Sakharov († July 11, 1993)

Stand with the Maasai (or: How people can live next to lions without killing them)

The Kikuyu tribe proclaimed the Metropolitan of Nairobi as their “Elder”
Hope for the Kikuyu (Kenya) / "The caves along the Tana River became the refuge for freedom fighters..." 
Orthodox Christian dialogue with Banyore culture
The Orthodox Church in Kenya & the Orthodox Patriarchal Ecclesiastical School of Makarios III
Orthodox Mission in Tropical Africa (& the Decolonization of Africa) 

Δευτέρα 16 Μαρτίου 2020

Africa in 2019: regime change, a Peace Prize, cutting ties with the franc

 Maintaining progress is very hard, but always possible

Ethiopia - Planting Avocado Trees. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed wants 4 billion trees planted.  Photo: Flickr

Mathew Otieno  

At the beginning of each year since 2017 I have written an article looking back on how Africa, this dear old continent, fared in the year just-ended, and to outline its prospects in the year ahead. I find it more difficult to do this year than ever before. Last year was one of the most nuanced I have ever seen.
However, I will begin by summarising what I believe to be the most important stories of 2019, at the same time providing updates on some of the big stories of 2018, which you can read about here.
A year ago I speculated on the direction of South Africa after the fall of Jacob Zuma. Well, the South African parliament went on to elect Cyril Ramaphosa, who had taken over as interim president, to a definitive five-year presidential term. He was sworn in in May. It is still too early to evaluate his administration, but he has not been spared trouble since his ascendancy.
In Kenya, the “Handshake,” a 2018 pact between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga which calmed nerves following the contested presidential election of 2017, and whose official name is the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), delivered its long-awaited baby. It came in the form of a 156-page report, launched at a raucous convention in November.
The document has divided opinion. It is seen through the lens of the upcoming 2022 general elections more than as a means to its stated goal. Which stated goal is to unite the country around a core of shared values and forestall the possibility of chaotic future elections by addressing historical injustices and economic equality.
It has been sent to a second-round of public participation, ostensibly as a means to further legitimise it, but it won’t lose its tag as a cog in succession politics ahead of the next elections. This means its usefulness will be short-lived and it likely will not contribute a thing to the achievement of its stated goals.
In Sudan, Omar al Bashir got kicked out of the presidency almost exactly three months after my article, in which I speculated that he would be overthrown. But then the military, which had changed sides and helped topple him, tried to take his place with a two-year transitional government, ignoring calls by protesters for a civilian government.
In response, the people of Sudan went back onto the streets and did not desist until the military gave in. In August, an agreement for a hybrid transitional government – made up of the military and civilian representatives – was reached. In September a new cabinet was sworn in. The new government set itself an ambitious target of getting a handle on two major issues – peace and the economy – in 200 days. Now it has less than 100.
Further north, Algeria handed Bouteflika his exit card in April, just before Bashir. After ruling Algeria for over 20 years and surviving the 2011 Arab Spring, he resigned in response to unrelenting popular protests. The problems which contributed to the protests are far from being solved, but getting rid of Bouteflika was a good beginning. The country gained another victory by beating Senegal to win the Africa Cup of Nations three months later.
In Zimbabwe, former president Robert Mugabe passed on in September. He died in disgrace, having been forced out of power by a coup barely two years earlier. But the disgrace was, thankfully, tempered by his legacy as an African independence hero. For this, he got a well-deserved state funeral.
Mugabe’s reputation is also tempered by the failure of those who took over from him to bring Zimbabwe back from the ruin to which he led it. Things seem to have taken a turn for the worse. The economy is headed for collapse, and political freedoms are in retreat. To encourage the people of Zimbabwe, I can only refer them to Martin Luther King’s “arc of the moral universe” quote – a favourite of Obama.
Speaking of moral matters, population controllers did not relent in their efforts to bring Africa into the fold of the culture of death. Luckily, resistance was not lacking. For instance, when they locked out pro-life participants from the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, held to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1994 United Nations “International Conference on Population and Development,” a parallel conference championing family values was convened. It also helped that the United States led a coalition of countries to oppose the summit, further denying it legitimacy.
If only these birth control crusaders could leave us alone. We had enough problems to contend with in 2019. In March, Ethiopia witnessed its deadliest plane crash ever, in which all 157 passengers and crew passed on. This accident touched close home, not just because Ethiopia neighbours Kenya, where I live, but also because the flight was headed for Nairobi, so that a large number of the casualties were Kenyan.
Then there were Idai and Kenneth, two hurricanes which hit south-eastern Africa around the same time, claiming hundreds of lives and leaving millions of people vulnerable. Hurricanes rarely visit us, and many African countries are not prepared for them. The year ended with another freak weather event when extra heavy rains brought with them devastating floods, especially to eastern and central Africa.
Good news, of course, was not lacking. In October, Eliud Kipchoge, Kenyan marathoner extraordinaire, ran a marathon in under two hours, 20 seconds under two hours, to be precise, so that it would be patently foolish to doubt that he did it. In the same month Abiy Ahmed, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, won the Nobel Peace Prize.
I didn’t see that one coming, even though I sang his praises in my January 2019 review article. Earlier, in July, Abiy had led his country to plant a record 350 million tree seedlings in a single day, as part of a campaign to plant 4 billion trees in the year to combat deforestation and desertification.
For me, the end-of-year surprise for 2019 came from the CFA (Financial Community of Africa) bloc, which pledged to replace the CFA franc with a new one currency called the “Eco”. The CFA Franc, which is currently used by eight African countries, was instituted by France for its African colonies in 1945. It (alongside the structures that support it) has been seen as an instrument of neo-colonial domination, and calls for its removal have grown in recent times.
This is not the right time to launch into a polemic against France’s colonial legacy in Africa. It is enough to say that the allusion of the Italian deputy prime minister, in January, to France’s constant and detrimental meddling in Africa, which set off a diplomatic row between his country and France, had the flavour of truth.
The announcement of the impending overhaul of the CFA franc, together with the fact that practically all African countries have now ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), are, to me, the most consequential structural developments for the continent’s future. With enough goodwill on the part of those tasked with implementing them, the boundless potential of this continent will be much sooner unleashed.
I summarised 2019 as one of hope. I do not know how to characterise the year we have just started. In many ways, the stories we tell this year will be more particular to the struggles of each country and each people. But they will also be more African, because we ride from the same past and face the same future.
Before I close, I wish to leave you with this beautiful selection of photos, compiled by the BBC, depicting some of the stories of Africa from 2019.

Mathew Otieno writes from Nairobi, Kenya.