Peace in Venezuela: COVID-19 Emergency and Interreligious Action
The COVID-19 crisis is inspiring wide-ranging appeals to universal values like peace, social justice, mutual respect, compassion, tolerance, and respect for others’ freedoms. Many come from religious leaders and from interreligious and ecumenical organizations. The hope is that the unprecedented and global crisis might open new will and avenues to peacebuilding (though sober honesty requires a recognition that many fear that the crisis could instead fuel existing conflicts and spark new ones).
Venezuela faces an acute economic and social crisis that is rapidly worsened by the COVID-19 emergency. The impact of the crisis on neighboring countries is amplified by the large numbers of refugees who have fled Venezuela (estimated to be around 5 million); many displaced within the country are in acute need. It is thus heartening to learn of renewed efforts for peace. Representatives of various Christian churches, the Jewish community, and other social organizations formed the Venezuelan Interreligious Social Council before the crisis, with the goal of helping to mitigate some of Venezuela’s problems. As these are being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the council has stepped up its advocacy and work. They intend to work for a more peaceful and just society and to strengthen the integration and collective effort among different sectors. All religious, political, and social leaders are invited to join in a dialogue on how various facets of national life (political, social, economic, religious) are tested by the pandemic. In a country like Venezuela, which is mired in political and societal unrest and uncertainty, observers welcome the interfaith coalition in hopes that it can help propel a national healing process.
(Based on: April 24, 2020, Agenzia Fides article and April 27, 2020, Caracas Chronicles article)