This crisis reminds us that we are all in the same boat

Taking the opportunity to rediscover, rethink and re-evaluate our global community

By The Revd Ramaçes Hartwig

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 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).

The aim of maritime ministry in the Port of Rio Grande, Brazil, is, as with other seafarer centres, to offer 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.

‘Colonia Z1’, situated near the port, is a community of humble fishers 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.

For 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 trans- ported through here by road. For this reason, our ministry also aims to reach out to truck drivers.

With regards to ecumenical partner- ship, our Stella Maris Seafarers’ Centre was founded in 2010 and 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 fishers together. We are a team of some 15 people who meet weekly to plan our activities together and we share ship visiting and other pastoral activities among smaller sub-teams.

Sadly, with the arrival of Covid-19, our access to the port has been suspended as has our ministry with fishers and truck drivers. This situation has pushed us to go beyond our established patterns of ministry and so 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, that governmental austerity measures have diverted funding away from hospitals, that corruption distorts politics and economics, that fear displaces efforts to build peace by giving primacy to the military, and that 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 Covid-19 will enable us to rediscover, rethink, re-evaluate and redirect our global community. We are already seeing the impact upon our leaders’ assumptions and decision-making processes; we are witnessing the relocation of the Human 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 can serve as our ‘compass’. Both offer insights and directions for the conduct of our common life as a global international family as well as 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, directing us 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!

The Revd Ramaçes Hartwig is an honorary chaplain for the Mission in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.