Doris Muñoz Vallejos. CEDM – Chile

Doris Muñoz

#SymbolOfHope

It is with anger and helplessness that I see the everyday injustice affecting thousands and millions of people, who are being forced to go out and try to collect miserable unemployment benefits, and I have seen endless lines of elderly people collecting squalid pensions. Therefore, the injustice of a social model based in the privileges of those who can buy healthcare is shown, something that should be a great scandal in so called Christian countries. But no, it doesn’t scandalize anyone, it is rather normalized. It is like getting into a nightmare. Even more, in Latin America, where this crisis is just beginning, we have already seen dramatic scenes of dead people abandoned in the streets – as in Ecuador – living with indignity until death.

However, that is not all. As it is already known, in catastrophe situations, people living in vulnerable conditions, more often than not, see with fear and rage that their rights count way less. Such is the case for women and girls, whom, in this forced enclosement, are suffering the increase in gender violence. This is known, because domestic violence reports have been increasing at a high rate, stats that do not include those who don’t report it. It is also possible to suspect that sexual abuses in enclosed contexts, overcrowding and alcohol abuse have increased. So much so, that in southern Chile, alcohol sales in the afternoon/night are being forbidden to reduce domestic violence.

How to find hope in these moments?

It is hard to break free from fear and paralysis, especially with the images with which the media controls us. Therefore, it is necessary for us to be able to draw a line and find a way to be informed, but not paralyzed.

At a personal level, I have found a bit of peace, hope and strength when I go back to myself, to the present moment, to the here and now of just one day. I realized it was untenable for my mental health and my spirit to think about the end of this enclosement. That is why I focus and try to pay attention to what I am doing (working on the computer, cooking, sweeping, in a zoom meeting, or whatever) and I practice full presence, something that is not easy, because I often find myself in what our friend Marcos Riesen calls the “mind war”.

I do body prayer, by practicing Tai Chi, and I become aware of myself as belonging to the Whole. I appreciate it from the everyday life of my house, the garden, the dogs, the little trees with their generous presence that nurtures with their fruits and embellishes with the ruffle of their leaves and their aromas. I learn from their presence the need to strengthen my roots and, at the same time, to be more flexible to adapt to this big change that we are living. I meditate and join the moments of prayer and meditation summoned by different religious groups and traditions. More than ever, I have practiced the ecumenical and interfaith dimension of my spirituality. I trust that, finally, we will all believe that God is the Only Mystery and/or Presence of The Sacred that calls us in these days to prayer and compassion for everyone.

It also encourages me and strengthens my hope to realize that there are also things happening, sometimes small gestures, that would suggest an awakening to solidarity and mutual care. For instance, communal meals are coming back to support those who have lost their job, people are caring for the elderly who are currently alone, they are making masks for those who cannot make them themselves, or the small neighborhood bakeries contribution (family business), who are leaving bags of bread hanging on their fences for anyone who needs them. These deeds are mostly coordinated by women, who – using what little they may have – are able to overcome the circumstances, however adverse, and to collectively find ways to help those who need it most. These are the kind of news we need to make viral to cheer us up.

What also drives me is to collaborate and encourage faith communities, that cannot hold a service and/or mass, so they can set up daily readings of the gospels – using their cell phones –as a source of life and hope, and to share it over that network. And, by the way, I feel better in these meetings, whatever the virtual environment, with my colleagues. The relevance of social media to pass on encouragement messages and to show the resistance to a social model that does not longer serves humanity, nor earth, must be said and considered.

Anyway, these small gestures – among many others – show the solidarity that emerges and that not everything is negative. Is this the dimension we need to strengthen to organize the world after the pandemic?