On 24th April 2021 GNRC member, Shanti Ashram, together with Focolare Movement, Arigatou International, University of Mumbai and other GNRC–India partners organized a meeting on, “Inter-generational Reflection and Dialogue on Rediscovering ‘humility’ and ‘humanity’ in the Midst of the COVID–19 Pandemic.” The virtual program attracted 2,127 people through Shanti Ashram’s Facebook live stream and 100 directly through the Zoom call. Members came from 14 countries across the world.
The event was an invitation to listen to one another and share experiences on how dialogue has created an environment of reflection, mutual learning and recommitment to action to build peace especially during COVID-19. Shanti Ashram has managed to host five editions of the meeting, which have previously succeeded in putting together youth and adults from different religions to reflect on topics that affect the current and future generations.
It was noted in the discussion that the pandemic is the greatest challenge ravaging the world with India carrying its fair share of casualties. Members appreciated the fact that the world came together irrespective of faith, ethnicity, gender and age to find concrete solutions to the pandemic.
During the meeting, participants highlighted how the pandemic had impacted their lives, citing closure of businesses, schools, public facilities, and even social gatherings. Significant sectors affected by the closure include education and economy and experts fear that countries, especially those in the ‘third world’ category might sink further into economic and developmental depression. Additionally, they observed that the next generations were in danger of losing their social life as a result of staying at home.
Repeated lockdowns witnessed across countries were also enforced so as to limit the spread of the pandemic. It became mandatory for a person to also present his or her COVID-19 negative certificate when travelling or access public essential spaces such as supermarkets and hospitals.
Participants mentioned that they have devised new ways to address the problems including setting up online classes for children and urging caregivers to support children’s study at home. It was also noted that informal systems of education similarly offered opportunities to children who cannot access online studies. Entrepreneurs have similarly developed more online platforms to sell their products.
Nonetheless these are tough times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is crucial to have moments of common reflection and discernment on the present situation. In this perspective, Shanti Ashram and its partners see a great opportunity through the online program, Leaders multiply LEADERS project. The webinar brought to perspective the role of faith communities, professionals and NGOs in providing education to children.
Youth and children also shared their opinions and experiences during the pandemic and some of the measures that could be adapted in place of contemporary social engagements. Through discussions with the young population, adults understood the perception of children as integral stakeholders in the fight against Coronavirus.