Building beyond the moment of crisis

After recent events, we are still reeling from a roller-coaster of emotions and an avalanche of thoughts, questions and concerns. Even just witnessing scenes of violence and looting on television from the safety of our homes has left us shaken. Many people are battling with increased anxiety or depression. If you feel numb or overwhelmed or frequently teary, if you are battling to sleep well, you are not alone. There is a sense of collective trauma.

While all of us are impacted, it is clearly those who experienced the violence who are most profoundly affected, especially those who lost loved ones or whose places of work were destroyed. In KwaZulu-Natal alone, reports are saying around 150000 people lost their jobs as a direct result of the violence and looting. This means many more families potentially without food, let alone the other necessities of life.

St Ignatius says: “love expresses itself more in deeds than in words.” Prayer, well-wishes, and even charitable outreach, (critical as that is right now), is not enough. We are called to sustained action in a complex situation in which a combination of structural inequality, endemic corruption, the pandemic and the recent violence has left many without access to the most basic resources for living.

As South Africans, we have an amazing gift for stepping up and pulling together in moments of crisis. It has been moving to see some of the outreach that has happened. However, we are less good at sustaining our efforts in the longer term. And it is sustained effort that is desperately needed in our country in which around 70 per cent of young people do not have work.

There is momentum for change at the moment – a Kairos moment. Many of us have been jolted out of complacency to respond creatively and generously. It’s not going to be an easy journey. While community and trust have increased in some places and people from diverse backgrounds have come together with a common purpose, existing divisions and tensions are now even more marked in other areas.

We are called to do what we can, where we are, and with what we have. Some of us may be able to contribute financial resources to the rebuilding efforts, or we may have skills we can share with others. Some of us are in positions of influence to advocate for change.

We find ourselves at a critical moment of choice. As individuals, there is much we cannot control. Yet, each of us can choose to speak and act in ways that contribute to the reconciliation and building up of our country. Through this crisis, we have seen that we have more power than we thought. Even very ordinary things, done with intention and love, can create momentum with hope for lasting change. If we only sustain it in the long term. We can all do something given our particular gifts and circumstances.

What is it that God is inviting me to do?

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell has worked in the area of Ignatian Spirituality for 19 years and heads up the work of the Jesuit Institute School of Spirituality. Her primary focus is the training and supervision of spiritual directors and the giving of retreats. She is also a registered Psychologist and her PhD focused on the interface between Christian Spirituality and Psychology. Annemarie is an editorial advisor to “The Way” journal of Spirituality and has authored a number of articles relating to the training of Spiritual Directors in an African context. She has contributed to several books, most recently co-authoring a book of Lenten Reflections: “Long Journey to the Resurrection”. She has contributed to international conferences and consultations in Spirituality in the United Kingdom; the United States; Rome; Spain, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe. @annemariepc_c
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