Serious debate on consequences of coronavirus on people’s lives | 20 July 2020
By Patrick Joubert
Parish representatives from Mahe, Praslin and La Digue on Saturday gathered at the main cathedral in Victoria for the Roman Catholic Church’s 43rd assembly of the pastoral diocese council.
Followed by a praise and worship session, the general assembly was different from past ones as it was entirely dedicated to discussions followed by questions and answers on the ‘Consequences of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on our lives’, a theme chosen in line with the church’s broad mission to society to get the faithful to take a profound interest in their social life. The aim was to get those present to reflect on the challenges of COVID-19 and to seek ways and solutions around the challenges it poses and mitigate the impact on our everyday life in the community.
Four guest speakers were invited to make presentations of 10 minutes each, namely businessmen Andre Rassool and Gafoor Yakub, principal secretary Alvin Laurence from the Ministry of Family Affairs, and Father Lonnie Adrienne from the Anse Aux Pins diocese.
Before the start of the presentations, Bishop Denis Wiehe reminded the delegates that God is always present and active in the lives of those who believe in him and even in the lives of those who do not believe in Him. But he noted that we have to believe in him through his son, Jesus Christ, for us to receive his holy spirit.
“Even though we are at times fully occupied with our own self, we should take notice of God’s presence and in this time of the pandemic, ask Him to help us to prepare ourselves so that we can face the challenges of COVID-19,” said Bishop Wiehe who also noted that with the opening of the Seychelles International Airport to commercial flights on August 1, 2020, things could turn out to be either good or bad with regards to the spread of the COVID-19.
The first presenter, Mr Rassool, said that in this time of the pandemic, there are possibilities and opportunities for the country and its people to prosper economically, even though not on a large scale. He noted that this is the time for us to seize the moment, to think of innovative ways to support the country and the livelihood of the family. He claimed that if somebody is pessimist and negative, he or she will never see the opportunities available to prosper during this time of the pandemic. He claimed that there are many ways for families to earn some extra cash or to make ends meet during the pandemic.
He suggested that we do garage sales for things we no longer need, recycle materials such as wood (Albizya and mango tree trunks are often left to rot by the roadside), among other innovative small businesses such as the sewing of face masks which could be done at home or at community level.
“My message to you is to think, and to think smart,” he said.
For his part, Mr Yakub said something needs to change in our way of life as we are facing growing business uncertainty which affects the broader economy and an increase in the cost of living on account of the rupee depreciation against the US dollar and the euro.
On a national level, he said that we should cut down on unnecessary imports and avoid wastage to conserve our limited forex reserves. He further said that government should restrict or limit the importation of non-essential products by re-introducing import permits as a simple administrative, non-tariff measure for a short period, at least until the year end when the situation can then be reviewed.
At household level, or personal level, Mr Yakub suggested that we moderate our consumption level, especially our consumption of foreign goods as opposed to locally produced goods. He emphasised that we need to instil the “savings habit” in our youth and move away from the “hand out” culture to a “hand up” policy where people are shown how to work or grow their own food. He encouraged those with adequate space to grow some of their own food in their backyard gardens.
“We should all encourage or promote local production whenever it’s feasible, not just agricultural goods but also locally manufactured goods and value-added products that are ‘made in Seychelles’,” he said.
Mr Yakub concluded by stating that when looking at the structure of our economy, tourism must continue to be a primary economic activity in the short-term but in the medium to long term it will help if we diversify and venture into other lines of businesses that can generate foreign exchange income and create employment at a time when we need it the most.
Father Adrienne, on his part, called on all of us to rediscover the spiritual values. He made references in relation to spiritual values from quotes from the bible and from Pope Francis. He said the lockdown presented us with an opportunity to renew our spiritual values and with the help of God, we can transform the world into a better place.
“One of the areas that need a transformation is in the world of work. It is sad to see how many young people in my district, Anse Aux Pins, are involved in anti-social activities and who are still sitting idle and not working at all,” he said.
Father Adrienne claimed that there is enough work or part-time economic activities for those young people to get involved in as other more determined youths are able to find work on their own to feed their families.
He said that the good thing about COVID-19 is that nature has been allowed to rest and to refresh itself. He added that maybe it is what humanity needs at the moment in the name of God; to rest and to freshen up so as to help the world undertake a new kind of transformation.
PS Alvin Laurence of the Ministry of Family Affairs, was delayed in making his presentation and he had to leave prematurely to attend to a sad family matter. He covered a number of social and family issues and was very eloquent in explaining the need to bring worship and prayers into the homes.
The presentations were followed by questions, answers and comments from the audience. Most of the questions which touched on local production and the economy were directed at Messrs Yakub and Rassool who gave some really good answers.
It is to be noted that such a discussion on the ‘Consequences of the coronavirus in our lives’ started at the Saint Michel Archangel Parish Church at Anse Aux Pins in late May 2020, organised by Father Lonnie Adrienne.