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Musings On Multilateralism: In Line With God’s Commandment To Love Our Neighbors

During Pope Francis’ virtual address to the General Assembly during the 75th Year Anniversary of the United Nations (UN), the word “Multilateralism” was mentioned three times. Hence, this article! The Holy Father stressed the importance of strengthening the principle of multilateralism, instead of weakening it, so as to foster advocacy of unity and peace among all nations. Normally, the said precept is used in international relations wherein world leaders consult and discuss among themselves on how to resolve important issues confronting the world. In layman’s term, it is simply helping each other to achieve a common objective, for the good of all (that’s just how I perceive it!).

The Holy Father encouraged all nations to espouse the said principle particularly in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused devastating effects to peoples lives and economies all over the world, especially the relatively poor nations which are economically badly hit by this terrible virus. The Holy Father reminded the UN of its main purpose of existence, i.e., to “bring nations together and “to be a bridge between peoples”. In times like this with the pandemic still haunting everyone, all nations should avoid turning against each other and instead cooperate with each other particularly on how to counter this virus.

Why is the call for multilateralism relevant these days? During the past 6 months with COVID-19 pandemic in our midst, we have observed that from the time the virus started affecting people’s lives, every country has undertaken proactive measures and quarantine protocols to contain the spread of the virus, including imposing travel/movement restrictions and shutting down borders to other nationalities. That was understandable, alright. However, everyone must also realize that COVID-19 virus is a pandemic, every country is affected, and the fight against this would require global cooperation and solidarity to mitigate the impact of the virus. It would not hurt for a relatively poor nation to ask for help from a richer one or for the latter to lend a hand to the poorer ones. As the Alliance For Multilateralism has stated, everyone “must remain united in our shared humanity”. There should be no room for people’s selfishness and prejudices on this matter so as to achieve the common goal.

If you have been able to hear/read some of the statements of the world leaders to the UN General Assembly during its Diamond Anniversary, particularly from the developing nations such as the Philippines, they are in unison that any vaccine or possible treatment for this COVID-19 virus be made available to all, rich and poor nations alike, but more help should be extended to vulnerable and poorer countries where conflict and health systems are less prepared and those with refugees and displaced people.

The issue on provision of vaccine for all has fueled up due to earlier reports that developed economies have already cornered more than a billion doses of corona virus vaccines, and that the rest of the world will be at the last of the line. This was confirmed by Oxfam International (Oxfam) based on its data showing that rich countries representing “13% of the world’s population” have already locked up “more than 51% of the promised doses of leading COVID 19 vaccine candidates”. Additionally, these manufacturers may not have also the capacity to produce adequate vaccines for everyone. As such, Oxfam informed health and finance ministers of G20 countries to meet and discuss on this matter in the context of global pandemic.

Because of the said call from certain world leaders, the UN reported 2 days ago via press release (September 30, 2020) that it gathered nearly $1 billion in recent pledges – “to bolster access to lifesaving tests, treatments and vaccines” to put an end of this COVID-19 virus. UN further stated that new commitments from its partners, e.g. governments, international organizations and the private sector have been made and that they welcomed a show of solidarity and supported a unified approach to end this pandemic. So far, this is good news! Hopefully, there will be more wealthy nations and individuals who will follow suit and be generous enough just like the first few who have already shown support to share their affluence for the welfare of the people throughout the world.

Multilateralism is in effect a means for everyone to care and share with each other. Regardless of its magnitude (whether the help is big or small), this principle is actually in line with one of God’s greatest commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. Loving our neighbors is not limited to loving our own family, friends and the community but also loving even those far away from us. We’re talking about the love that is generic, the love that God wants all of us, the love for our brothers and sisters, regardless of race, religion and status in life. Besides, Love knows no borders, right? Selfishness and self-centeredness during this time will not put an end to this pandemic.

As Pope Francis quips in one of his messages, this pandemic has “shown us that we cannot live without one another”. Indeed, no man is an island! And the song goes on: No man stands alone, Each man’s joy is joy to me, Each man’s grief is my own. What a beautiful song! We should all be reminded by this song about God’s Love for us. Because of God’s love, we have been freed from sin and we are able to love others too. We are commanded by God and we are bound duty to share the said love to others and to love the right way.

This principle of multilateralism should not only be limited and applicable to major challenges such as this pandemic but also in our challenges of everyday lives: in the community we live for instance, how can we promote this in a smaller scale? Are we good family? neighbors? How do we share our 3 Ts (time, talents and treasures) to our community, especially those who are in need in our midst? Are we involved/concerned in building our community or merely an onlooker or kibitzer of what is going on?

To conclude, the Holy Father stressed that the “end of all our actions can only be love. This is the ultimate goal of our journey, and nothing should distract us from it. This is why, at this critical juncture, it is our duty to rethink the future of our common home and our common project”.

Loving and Generous God, we thank you for your great love for us. Thank you for allowing us to love others and to enjoy the love given us. During this time of pandemic and with all other challenges in life, we humbly pray that the world leaders of wealthy nations be enlightened, and grant them the wisdom and the foresight to care for other nations and to share their abundance to others in need. Please heal all of us, your people, make us good followers of yours so that we may also be able to share and love people we meet everyday and along the way, especially those who need most, the unloved and those who find it hard to love. This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

(earlier published in The Filipino Catholic magazine based in NYC authored by her)

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