We say that faith and words can move mountains, and that may be true. But we also know that often words alone have little power and impact, even if we have faith. We need some concrete and visible action, we think. Many times, when I say something, nobody really listens, and also when others speak, I don’t listen carefully and think about what they say. I just hear and go on with my own thoughts and chores.

This time around, now when there is a worldwide Corona pandemic, without vaccine or cure yet, we must listen to the advice of leaders and experts, and we must use our own common sense, too. It is essential that we follow the rule of keeping distance, meeting in small groups or just one-on-one, wash hands, not shake hands, and wear a face mask when we meet people, especially those in high-risk groups. We should reduce our movements and stay in seclusion as much as possible. But daily life must also go on since the situation is likely to last for a good while.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech last Sunday gave a lot of advice rather than orders which we should follow; it was a sober and serious speech, with appeal to all to do what we can. He gave special focus and consideration to the situation of ordinary people, many below poverty line. Although the current pandemic strikes indiscriminately both rich and poor, it is still the poorest and most vulnerable who get hardest hit. The PM’s underlining of the fact that closing down of many sections of society leads to dramatic consequences for the economy and indeed ordinary people, day labourers and others who have no savings to fall back on.

In one of the world’s richest countries, Sweden, a former deputy central bank chief there, Kerstin Hessius has warned that her country, and Europe overall, cannot keep the close-down they have enforced on society for very long because there will be to many negative effects, aside from the positive ones. She has said that scores of people will become jobless, companies will go bankrupt, especially small companies, and many other unwanted things will happen.

Hessius wants the massive measures to be in place only for a short time, and later, selected and targeted measures can be used. She challenges the health and political authorities and wants them to estimate a timeline for when and how Sweden can be put on back on track to some kind of normalcy. All countries will have to do that soon, she says. In neighbouring Norway, which is my home country, experts such as Steinar Juel of Civita think-tank and others have also started talking about the negative side-effects and major extra costs for society if massive measures last for long. True, the measures have probably had some of the intended effects, notably delaying the spread of the coronavirus so that the hospitals and health sector can be in a better position to cope. Yet, the measures cannot be in place for too long; now, the general time is up to mid-April, when the Easter holidays end.

It should be mentioned that oil-rich Norway can afford drastic measures and the government can help companies, municipalities and individuals to stay afloat, at least for some time. Sweden also has solid finances, although not as good as Norway’s; besides, Sweden has taken somewhat less massive measures, for example, leaving primary schools open. But even so, Kerstin Hessius, whom I referred to above, is indeed worried about the side-effects and long-term consequences for people’s overall health, the economic situation, and even the social fabric of the country. It may take a generation to rebuild it all.

I believe that we will change many things when rebuilding in order to develop a more sustainability and humane societies for all, with less European-American capitalism, less illogical supply chains in industry and trade, less stress at work, less competition, less illnesses because people feel they are losers, even if they are good but not best, and many other things. In many ways, the Western societies have spiralled out of proportion and control; they have lost a firm and steady grip on the most essential things, indeed exploitation of nature and people, and escalating military expenses. NATO is not of any use keeping us safe from Corona or climate change, the real threats of today.

The majority of people in the West have had it too good materially for a couple of generations. The globalisation system benefits the West first, then others, but not all. The financial crisis in 2008 was a serious warning, but it wasn’t enough to stop the general ideology: allowing those who have much to get even more, yes, more of things they don’t need; and watching inequalities growing when the world could afford to share so every human being could have a bearable life. One aspect of the ‘overeating’ of people in the West’s, and the rich in the poor countries, too, is all the tourist and business travels that people have gotten used, even taking for granted.

We are coming toward the end of Lent, the Christian time of fast, and in a month’ time, the Muslim month of fast begins. This year, many things are entirely different from other years due to the current pandemic. May it bring something positive, too, and may we reflect and pray deeper than ever, in seclusion because we should not go to crowded churches or mosques. People sometimes say, ‘we are all in the same boat’. I’d say, ‘we are on the same ocean but in different boats’. That was why I drew attention to inequality and greed above. Imran Khan has again expressed concern for the poorest people in the land now in the time of the worldwide pandemic.