Coronavirus doesn’t discriminate, why should we?
We are living through a scary time. All our lives have been touched by COVID-19 spreading at a rapid pace throughout the world. Even as we utilize social distancing and isolation as tools to combat the spread, we cannot allow ourselves to lose the sense of community and solidarity—not just for our own families, churches and states, but across the world. Each life touches another, and we share a mutual responsibility to work together and protect one another in this time of crisis.
Nationalism, nativism and xenophobia have exacerbated this crisis. The Trump administration was content with travel bans as its only tactic in combating what he termed the “foreign virus.” As a result, the U.S. has been ill-prepared to measure or contain the virus from spreading into the pandemic it has become.
No ban or border wall can stop COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends against travel bans because they can only slow the spread of an epidemic for a short while. WHO has a plan to fight pandemics, but most countries have chosen not to follow it; the Trump administration recently proposed slashing 3 billion dollars to the WHO for 2021. Now more than ever we need global solidarity to act in developing vaccines, testing kits, and canceling large gatherings. The latter may be particularly hard for our churches. The United Church of Christ has put together an incredible list of resources for congregations to maintain faith, cultivate community and serve one another while adhering to the Center for Disease Control guidelines that require us to stop gathering in large groups.
As congregations find creative ways to worship virtually, care for elderly, and bring groceries to those in need, marginalized populations—such as those without access to health care or the countless asylum seekers who are detained—are also at greater risk. Immigrant rights organizations are calling on President Trump to protect all people and to suspend immigration enforcement, as the need is clear for free COVID-19 testing and treatment for all, regardless of immigration status. Guaranteed safe conditions and healthcare for those in detention and prisons must be included in the measures to protect the public health, because we are all in this crisis together.
We all must continue to lift a prophetic and moral voice against xenophobic responses. Racist attacks are on the rise as people seek a scapegoat to blame for this virus. Domestic policy impacts international policy, and it is clear that “America First” policies are hurting us more than helping us in the global struggle. Now, the more divided we let ourselves become, the less effective we are in warding off this crisis.
As we work to care for our church members, let us also ensure that we are educating people to stop xenophobia, to reduce humiliation, and to advocate for everyone to have health care and testing access, no matter their economic or immigration status. Together, we can meet fear with education and necessary action steps in order to reduce stigma and make it through this crisis stronger than we entered it. This is a time for global solidarity, and we must start here at home.
Noel Andersen, UCC Grassroots Coordinator for Immigrants' Rights of the Education for Faithful Action Plus (EFA+) Team in Justice and Local Church Ministries for the United Church of Christ.