Let us pray for the rich and powerful because they knew not what they were doing. It is now the week after Easter, the end of the Christian time of fasting, and a week before the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, which will end with the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr. This year, the corona pandemic has stopped the whole world. In his recent speech, PM Imran Khan warned of food shortages and suffering, affecting ordinary, poor people. The government has taken steps to help the needy. It is for everyone else to do what we can, share what we have and follow advice to reduce spread of the virus – till it is all over in a number of months. There will be a new day and a second chance for the common good, and we can do much of what we didn’t do before the pandemic broke out.

But I am not only talking about the immediate past and the lack of preparedness for the pandemic, and the several earlier virus attacks in recent decades. I am also talking about the numerous wars and conflicts we fuelled or just let rage, in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and elsewhere, or the growing inequalities within nations and globally we let go on. We saw the decline in spirituality and faith, the lack of real concern for the poor in our neighbourhoods, the overuse of nature and increase in pollution, the wastefulness in how resources and time were spent on the unnecessary, and so many other things. When the pandemic is over and we have had time to re-think our values and priorities, the new dayspring will give us a second chance. We should start planning for it now, so that we will be ready when the pandemic ends. We should thank God for the opportunity for a new beginning.

And now then, let us pray for the rich and powerful who were in charge when things went wrong and we all went astray, especially the leaders in the West. When was that? Well, I would say that much of what went so terribly wrong began in the 1980s and 1990s, when we allowed conservative and reactionary wind to become mainstream. We also slumbered in the first decade of the new century and millennium, when most of us began to accept many of the wrong right-wing trends. We didn’t quite wake up either when the financial crisis came in 2008 and we should have indeed seen the flaws in the anti-social capitalist world order.

Somehow, it seems we still believed that the very rich, with the oversized multinational and transnational companies, and the rest that had spiralled out of control, were actually doing something good. Some warned, but most of us closed our eyes to that fairytale world for the few. Even the average middle-class people in the West’s welfare states did so, and the middle and upper classes in the developing countries. If we were not quite cheering, we just considering that it was inevitable and how the new world had become. Yet, we must have known that the unsustainable structures were built on clay; we knew it wasn’t for everyone, certainly not for the poor, nowhere, not even in Europe, and certainly not the immigrants there and for other people who had fallen outside the competitive society early in their lives.

We must have seen all this, the decline in solidarity and the downsizing of the welfare state that many countries, indeed in Europe, built after WWII. From the 1980s, we accepted that the benefits to the poorest in Europe could be reduced, and some twenty percent would remain underclass. In America, we knew that a third would be without medical insurance and unemployment benefits, even if they fell sick or were laid off due to no fault of their own (including the current pandemic).

The international system was broken; the institutions established after WWII, with some solidarity with poor countries, were not useful for those who needed them most. We knew there was urgency in not only maintaining, but increasing development aid, and implement more massive structural changes in transfers from rich countries to developing countries. We knew there was a need to end the outright looting of the resources of the poor countries, and give them real say. We knew that the World Bank and IMF were not good for those who needed them most, any longer, if they ever had been. We knew that the private sector and NGOs neither could nor would take over and do better than the governments in shaping a fairer world order.

Not everything was wrong in the past, but we forgot that love, solidarity and peace, must always be placed highest on the agenda, as per God’s commandments, in everyday life and in politics. It is the duty of leaders at all times to ascertain that people in their societies share and care, that the societies are organised so that everyone has a say. It is also the duty of the people to support such policies and make them better.

I believe that we have now – after the pandemic is over – a second chance to do what is right. Even now when we are still in the difficult pandemic, we must plan for how to build back better, with a number of changes in politics and everyday life. One day, when nothing will be the same as before, we will indeed be able to make things better for all. That promise God wants us to give each other.