International

Stay home and all will be well

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Ncamiso Vilakati is a priest from eSwatini who is currently studying in Rome. He has witnessed the devastation of the coronavirus first hand. He shares his experiences of being in lockdown and his hopes for his return to his homeland. He also makes a very urgent plea for the citizens of Southern Africa to take the dangers of the coronavirus seriously and to put aside petty politics. Instead, he calls for a spirit of responsibility, national unity and discipline as the only way to prevent a massive loss of life.

I have fresh images of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, praying before the miraculous crucifix, the Madonna Salus Popoli Romani and the Eucharistic Adoration during the Urbi et Orbi blessing. His words ring in my ears encouraging us not to be afraid, but to trust in Jesus. He assures us that: “You, Lord, do not leave us at the mercy of the storm.” I would like to bestow my blessings upon you all in southern Africa. I am at home here in Rome and all is going well, thanks to the Lord who has not yet deserted us through this storm.

Academics in a period of lockdown

For me the academic year 2019-2020 will remain strongly marked. I have found myself indoors with lectures interrupted, residences closed, and without being able to go out for my favourite walk around the beautiful and historic city. In addition, there is the uncertainty of the future, not knowing when and how it will end, how long this pandemic will last and the effects that it will have on many fronts.

I often ask myself: “When will this end?” At first, I thought probably after the Easter celebrations. Now that things are becoming more and more desperate, for me the biggest question is: “Will the exams take place as per normal in June, or do I do them online?” If only I knew what the future holds, but nevertheless: “I am not a prophet or a son of a prophet” (cf. Am 7:14).

Since the beginning of this crisis, my reaction has been to continue praying and listening to the authorities. It is so difficult, but attainable. I do not want to give in when I face such challenges. The Pontifical University of the Holy Cross  has challenged me and my colleagues to embrace distance learning, using new technologies, which I must say haven’t really been easy to handle. Some of my colleagues, especially those from European countries and South Korea, returned to their respective countries, forcing us to make greater use of this mode of communication. It has been a moment of grace when we see them getting up in the middle of the night to follow the lessons, which are held live via streaming.

It is so difficult, but attainable. I do not want to give in when I face such challenges.

A certain level of not being left alone has filtered into our hearts and we are so grateful for the ministry the professors will never leave. They are trying to help us to complete this academic year, ending in June for me. This calls for personal responsibility that is fundamental: how well I organise myself to follow the lessons, prepare the papers, and dedicate time to study according to a personal schedule. I am not thinking only of the future, of the service I will offer when I finish my studies, but also of the present. My thoughts are with you back home, and with the benefactors who have entrusted their hard-earned money to make it possible for me to be of better service to the Church in southern Africa. I am grateful for their efforts, which have allowed me access to this excellent training.

Staying home, but staying united

Now I come to you my brothers and sisters in southern Africa, and to a certain extent, those from my country, Eswatini. I think you also owe me a certain responsibility. You owe me a certain prudence, so that when the pandemic has been extinguished, I can offer you my services. I need you to so that I can share what the professors have taught me these past three years. They have shaped me to their utmost capabilities so that I can serve you diligently as a faithful servant. Please cooperate with me by praying regularly at “home” and listen carefully to the guidelines of the government, especially those in authoritative positions.

You owe me a certain prudence, so that when the pandemic has been extinguished, I can offer you my services.

The Italian nation has come out with a slogan, “Io resto a casa; andra tutto bene“, simply meaning: I am staying at home, everything will be fine. I have seen warehouses being transformed into cold rooms. Coffins stacked together on a shelf that, on a normal day, would accommodate one, but now there are seven. In the Churches, due to the influx of corpses, the priests have to wait for five or more so that they can do solemn Requiem Masses for them. That is the situation in Italy, but through their slogan they have been united by practising social distancing. It is a difficult concept for us, but we have to try despite our daily life conditions, especially those in the “locations”.

Prepare and follow all precautions

I so wish that we could also come up with such slogans, to ensure we stay sane during these trying times. Despite seeing their nation dissipating right in front of their eyes, the Italians have kept strong by being emotionally closer to one another albeit physically distant.

Like many here who have lost their lives, the scourge in southern Africa is coming, and people will contract the disease and die. So, my brothers and sisters, prepare yourselves. But you, my friend, have the responsibility of not being “pushed” in order to protect another person. For this period, let us be altruistic for the sake of others. I am begging you!

It is a time for us to be home, and with that all will be fine.

I have seen so many images on social media that show some don’t take the Covid-19 challenge seriously. Human rights “experts” are condemning the president without offering any better suggestions. Political scores are settled with the aim of garnering people to “revolt” so that the incumbent government could “be seen for what it is”. I don’t think it’s time for that now. It is a time for us to be home, and with that all will be fine.

I thought in the beginning that the quarantine would be two weeks. The Giuseppe Conte-led government extended it to 3 April, now we have been told it is 18 April. We don’t know when it will end, it may take some time, but my responsibility to you and God is to follow all precautions. I pray and hope at least by June I would have finished my studies in Social Institutional Communications here in Rome, Italy. In that way, I hope you will later enjoy my teachings, for I have tried to be prudent for the good of humanity.

Arrivederci (See you later)

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* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.

 

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Stay home and all will be well