How the Mission’s work in Brazil has changed in light of Covid-19

30th April 2020
“…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

I am writing this reflection in Easter week in the midst of the turmoil brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. This paradox anchors me in the certainty that LIFE, as evidenced by Our Lord’s resurrection, overcomes death (and the Coronavirus).  Now more than ever, Jesus’ words encourage us giving us a sense of security and, above all, restoring our hope for life “in all its fullness” (John 10:10).

Maritime ministry in the Port of Rio Grande, Brazil, has, as with other seafarer centres, the aim of offering support to seafarers from all over the world. However, we do have a few additional unique features that broaden and enrich our pastoral perspectives of the spiritual and practical pastoral aspects of our ministries:

Fisher folk: We have nearby the “Colonia Z1”, a community of humble fisher folk who fish the waters along our coastline to earn a living and support their families. The fishing industry centred on our local Public Market employs and sustains hundreds of families in the area;

Truck drivers: Our port is the only one situated in and serving the State of Rio Grande do Sul.  Consequently, it is the single most important import/export transportation hub in the region.  Approximately 80% of our total agro-industrial production is transported through here by road. For this reason, our ministry also aims to reach out to truck drivers;

Ecumenical Partnership:  Our “Stella Maris Seafarers’ Centre” was founded in 2010. It is a shared space where the three main Christian traditions in our region, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican, work together to serve seafarers, truckers and fisher folk together. We are a team of some 15 persons who meet weekly to plan our activities together. We share out ship visiting and other pastoral activities amongst smaller sub-teams.

Sadly, with the arrival of the Coronavirus, our access to the port has been suspended as has been our ministry with fisher folk and truck drivers. However, we sense that this situation is pushing us to go beyond our established patterns of ministry. So, for that reason, we have been directing our energies to serve the many homeless street dwellers in the city. We work with the Municipal (Civic) Centre in the provision of accommodation, meals, clothing, toiletries, medicines, leisure activities and pastoral and spiritual care for this often forgotten section of our community.

It is ironic and tragic that it has taken a deadly invisible virus to open our eyes to the truth that “we are all in the same boat.”  In every country we are seeing that: national health services are vulnerable; governmental austerity measures diverted funding away from hospitals; corruption distorts politics and economics, and that fear displaces efforts to build peace by giving primacy to the military; the few control the vast proportion of the world’s wealth and the majority are robbed of their dignity and the right to fullness of life.

In spite of all this I have complete faith in the Risen Christ, that the Coronavirus will enable us to re-discover, re-think, re-evaluate and re-direct our global community.  We are already seeing the impact upon our leaders’ assumptions and decision making processes; we are witnessing the re-location of the Human Person to the centre of human affairs.  Today, more than ever, the Parable of the Good Samaritan can serve to inspire us and the Resurrection of Jesus serve as our “compass”.  They offer insights and directions for the conduct of our common life as a global international family as well as in the ways in which we engage locally and nationally to transform our societies, politics, economies and cultures.

Easter calls us to reject all that is deathly with passion and “evangelical” daring; to point to those things that point to the life of the Kingdom of God to that Truth, Justice, Love and Peace made real in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ!  Alleluia!

Rev’d. Ramaçes Hartwig

Hon. MtS Chaplain

Rio Grande do Sul,

Brazil.

 

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