Short Memories

Short Memories

Discussing Covid-19 matters with a friend he said: “We are learning a lot through Covid-19. A lot which has been forgotten from the recent history. People in the more affluent parts of the world have forgotten how vulnerable they are, and that death is part of life.”


The Spanish Influenza (1918-1920), although not actually originating in Spain, infected around 500 million people, almost one third of the world’s population at the time, in four consecutive waves. The death toll was a staggering 17-50 million. These are mere numbers but just think of the immense grief and hardship caused. And think what it would mean for us today in relation to the world population: 2.35 billion infected and 73,5-217 million deaths.


What is really frightening is how quickly these memories have faded. One hundred years are not that long ago. And yet we are re-learning the hard way to take a balanced approach to a pandemic. An approach which tries to take all aspects of life into account. Or as one Swiss Ethics Professor said: “As elsewhere in medical ethics, quality of life and life preservation must be weighed up against their proportionality.”


One would have thought that governments would have pandemic scenarios in their top drawer, ready to be put into action once something happens. This was not the case and so there was an overreaction with grave knock-on effects in the beginning. This has been replaced in many countries with a much more careful and global approach. And yet it seems that many have a hard time to get out of a crisis mode and accept that Covid-19 has become part of life.


Fading Bible Awareness


There are other areas of life where insight, knowledge and wisdom drawn from these are quickly vanishing. There is much talk about values and ethics in economic and government circles. However, when one bores down on what values and ethics are built on, one does not find a solid foundation.


Here is one example from the EU. The EEA has responded to the presentation of the EU White Paper on Artificial Intelligence and exactly pointed out this vaccuum: “… Although there is an emphasis on ethics, values, and rights, the White Paper does not ground these ethics and values. There should be a clear definition and explanation of what is meant by ‘improvement of lives’ or by ‘better the lives of all citizens.’ By lack of a broad and clear consensus on the common good, progress and economic interests could easily dominate decisions. …”


But what happens in the highest circles is only mirroring what is increasingly  the case among the masses. Every year there are street-surveys done by newspapers asking people to explain the meaning of Easter or Christmas. A high percentage of people  do not relate these events to Christianity and have a hard time explaining them at all. And yet so much of European everyday life and history is based and has been shaped by Christianity.

How to help Short Memories?


Short memories are a human trait. Just read in the book of Judges in the Bible and you will realise that this is not a new phenomenon. But so is “the turning to God” part. This is something which regularly happens in God’s story with humans. And this gives me hope. After having to discover the hard way how fragile and vulnerable we really are, people are open and actually desperate for hope.


Is our message of hope clear? Can it be heard and understood?


May God help us to live according to what it says in 1 Peter 3,15 “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”


Let us not give up Hope that people (societies) with short memories can return to Hope.


Thomas Bucher


General Secretary EEA


PS The “Bible”, which is read most often by people today, is a hopeful witness. These witnesses can make people curious and interested in reading the Bible.


PPS As you will notice, this newsletter focuses on socio-political issues. Julia Doxat-Purser and Arie de Pater have thankfully invested a lot of extra work into this. The socio-political field is one of those places where Christians are put to the test, and therefore it is extremely important to know what to do, what to avoid, to be like a witness as mentioned above.

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