The world of our ideas, Coping with Covid-19


Value of global vaccination

In looking at what sense people are making, or not, of what is happening in the world today concerning the pandemic of Covid-19, despite their endeavour to fight against it, there are some who are affirming that life is ok in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic. Others are pessimists who state that; alas friends, things will continue to be bad, we are damned!   The nihilists go as far as taking the view that life is just suffering after all and is not worth living – life is fundamentally meaningless.

To begin with, allow me to refresh your philosophy, as a prelude to my reflection on Covid-19. The perspective I ‘am about to share concerns idealism which hold the view that there is no external reality to material objects but only ideas of them existing in our minds (Omnia Vinieris, 2002). This is opposed to those who believe in the materiality of things – things as they are in themselves.

The view of idealism surfaced among ancient philosophers and religions and emphasises mental and spiritual components of experience and renounces to concepts of material existence. Plato believed that the physical world around us is not real, it is constantly changing and you can never say what it really is. There is a world of our ideas which is a world of unchanging and absolute truth. But does such a world exist independent of our human minds? Plato thought it does and that whenever we see something with or mind’s eyes we are using our mind to conceive of something in the ideal world. For example, when we conceive of moral perfection, he said, it exists in our mind even if we know there are no people who are morally perfect around us. So their idea of moral perfection came from the ideal world.

George Berkeley a philosopher and Anglican Bishop from Ireland stated that ideas come from God and so all humans are merely ideas in the mind of God. He further asserted that all ideas hostile to God’s infiniteness, permanence, and goodness such as the conception of death, hell and evil are flawed and wicked hallucinations and are not real. For some even Covid-19 is not real but a phantasy or an idea (my emphasis). Another philosopher pointed out that all objects of our perception and all natural phenomena are representations but the world as it is in itself (noumena), it is a world of the will. Does that mean we create objects, or the phenomena we see, hear or experience, to suit our will and our mind? Is that true?

Certainly, due to the number of deaths from Covid-19 and the related sicknesses, the world is shaken and some people have lost hope and are disgusted and fearful, while others are positive and holding on, saying: ‘it will come to pass’. It is not only the attack of Covid-19, but also its variants too which are worrying and exacerbating pessimism and nihilism despite scientific progress to find a remedy. Long lasting Covid-19 which can take over a year before being cured has been has been detected in some patients. Then, there has appeared the ‘The Indian Variant’ publicized on June 14 in the journal Lacent digital health Vol. 3 June/July 2021. The journal examined also the impact of the ‘Delta Variant’ in Scotland, where it had become the dominant strain. Researchers found that the risk of hospitalization from Covid-19 has doubled more due to patients infected with the ‘Delta Variant’, than with people infected with the ‘Alpha Variant’.

As can be seen, after the appearance of the ‘Indian Variant’, there emerged the ‘Delta Variant’, as if that were not enough, then the ‘Alpha Variant’ was detected in Scotland, with its own mutations which they also dubbed variants of concern. The ‘Alpha Variant’ attacks the immune system and is more infectious and is more worrisome. The ‘Delta Variant’ itself, also known as the fourth wave, identified in India, which caused a rapid rise in cases of infection and is a highly transmissible strain in Uk, has put countries in Europe, North America and Africa on watch. According to WHO this fourth wave (the ‘Delta Variant’) resists antibodies in our blood (needs higher levels antibodies to overcome it and causes relentless itching of the eyes and toothache). But the good news is that all the vaccines developed thus far can prevent people from developing severe diseases, hospitalization and death. All the vaccines are not 100% efficient but can prevent from severe diseases and are good enough. There is a reminder though that even if you have been vaccinated you can get infected but the disease will be mild. So get a complete vaccination to protect yourself and avoid infecting other people.

In some developed countries though there are rapid rises cases of Covid-19, more than 25,000 a day, they are planning to remove face masks, stop social distancing and are advising people to go back to work because the vaccine roll out is working for those fully vaccinated. What a shift!  This is a talk of forward and backwards: “it’s look and see, take care of yourself”. The leaders of states are on one side and the people are on the other side.  Most people oppose it because they fear that there will be more hospitalizations as the number of cases will surge.

There has been also notable vaccine pessimism; this is a wonder and something curious. There have been ideas of disinformation and theories of conspiracy across the spectrum of people, even among scientists themselves who have developed the vaccines; ‘I will wait and see’, some say. As has been noted, among those first to be vaccinated were health workers such as doctors, nurses, and other health workers. Surely can the whole world afford to lose all these populations of health workers so that we are left bereft of them? It cannot be. If so then that would mean supporting pessimist and nihilist ideas.

Among the ideas and conspiracy theories prevailing these days are those claiming that there are dark forces that want to eliminate half of the world population, especially the Third World; Africans in particular. Others say all those who have been vaccinated will become impotent. This conspiracy is the most feared by the big population. Some people have suffered from Covid-19 and been fully vaccinated, but have there is no evidence that they become impotent. This is just an idea in the minds to discourage and frighten others. Then there is the issue of the blood clot and deaths also, but these are minimal in comparison to the benefits of being vaccinated.

On the other hand, there are those who are not adhering to the warnings. They think that Covid-19 is just an idea, a myth. Others are going about their life mask-less, while others are wicked and comingling with others when they know they are sick and with little or no vaccines. They gather in groups to socialize with the others. The other day I saw the police with teargas dispersing a group of drunkards but they regrouped after the police have disappeared. I wonder whether this type of drinking in our country Zambia does not reflect a national or collective neurosis or a senseless and meaninglessness of life? How can people be drinking beer like this as if their lives depended on it?

To come back to the scenario of the pandemic, there are those who see in it the coming to the end of the world and nonchalantly pass comments such as “if Jesus Christ wants to come, let him just come now, this is the end of the world” (Yesu ngalefwaya ukwisa naesefye, uku ekupwa kwacalo; Ambuye Yesu ngati afuna kubwera angabwere, uku ndiye kutha kwa dziko).” This calls to mind of the sort of Christian sect idealist pessimists fond of foretelling the end of the world.  Without dwelling much on what went before, in recent times, they used to proclain that in 1980 the world will come to end, but it did not. They repeated the same thing in 2000, ‘the world will be over and everybody should stop amassing provisions for future use’. What was the origin of such ideas?

I do not know whether you have come across a book entitled, “Better not to have been born; the harm of coming into existence” 2006. The writer is a pure anti-natalist and nihilist philosopher and he is not only against reproducing for fate can befall on anyone but because life for him is permeated by badness. Therefore, reproducing is intrinsically cruel and irresponsible. He has produced another book called, Human Predicament 2017. He has argued in this book that human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. He provides an escalating list of woes, designed to prove that even the lives of happy people are worse than they think. He argues that: “we’re almost always hungry or thirsty, and when we’re not, we must go to the bathroom. We often experience ‘thermal discomfort’ – we are too hot or too cold – or are tired and unable to nap. We suffer from itches, allergies, and colds, menstrual pains or hot flashes” quote.

Life is a procession of “frustrations and irritations” – waiting in traffic, standing in line, filling out forms. We are forced to work, we often find our jobs exhausting; even “those who enjoy their work may have professional aspirations that remain unfulfilled” quote. Many lonely people remain single, while those who marry fight and divorce. “People want to be, look, and feel younger, and yet they age relentlessly. This idealism has earned him fame and has a lot of followers. Strangely enough he does not answer personal questions because people will analyse him psychologically and therefore does not want to be interviewed. He is a very isolated and withdrawn person.

This perspective seems to indicate that life would be meaningful only when there is no suffering on earth. Is this true? In other word, one thing which we quickly and already realise when we come into existence is that we are not going to live forever and we shall depart in different ways from this life. This is a fact and life’s meaning should not be based on or judged according to whether there is suffering or happiness.

All sentient things seem to have that kind of life-experience of pain suffering and happiness. And therefore the question to ask is what kind of creatures are we human beings? We are intelligent, creative, developmental, communal; interpersonal whether there is suffering death or happiness. If we have not been most of these, then we have failed. These are the values we have here on earth and should inculcate in others. A new philosophy of life and religion must reject all superstitious beliefs and ideas in their objective reality and be able to reason and realise that the others ideas are only mental pictures we paint to please our own souls or mentality (Jung 1964, p.159).

It is true that we do not like suffering or death though we can make sense of them. But the irony is that when you have had a good life and after that you experience pain and suffering you seem to reason and catastrophise that things will be bad. When in distress one’s thinking becomes rigid, distorted and over generalized and absolute (Weishar 1996, p.188). There are also some people who think and behave as though they have come into this world by accident. They are not productive and they want to manipulate others and make them work for them. St Paul advises such idle people and begs them to go on quietly working and earning the food they eat. Such idle people when they sit on the food to eat, eat as though they are eating for the last time or are going to prison.

Though I meandered this much, my point was really to comment on the prevailing scenario of Covid-19 and its ramification and the fear or pessimism it has engendered. People should not give up themselves because of the challenges brought by Covid-19, come what may we shall overcome; come rain, come storms. We are advised to put on the masks, observe social distancing and to be completely “jabbed up” where there is vaccine. Otherwise certain pieces of advice, even those given by certain developed countries, will just be a form of idealism.

By Fr Patrick Mumbi

Livingstonia Missionaries and White Fathers (Missionaries of Africa)


Kenneth David Kaunda during a working visit to President Reagan, 3/30/1983

Kenneth Kaunda was born on 28 April 1924 at Lubwa Mission in Chinsali, then part of Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, and was the youngest of eight children. His father, the Reverend David Kaunda, was an ordained Church of Scotland missionary and teacher, who had been born in Nyasaland (now Malawi) and had moved to Chinsali, to work at Lubwa Mission. His mother was also a teacher and was the first African woman to teach in colonial Zambia.

Lusaka, Embassy Park: Here lies a gallant freedom fighter, the African Child, Kenneth Kaunda. He came from a missionary family from Malawi that had settled in Lubwa. Born on 28th April 1924 and died on 17th June 2021, at the age of 97.

One notices the difference in evangelisation between White Fathers and the Livingstonia Mission who stressed the education of Africans in practical skills and in particular qualities which were consonant with the Calvinistic ethic as opposed with the Roman-Catholic, the White Fathers. For the Livingstonia Mission salvation was through individual faith in Christ; for the White Fathers the Sacraments, especially baptism, led to salvation. Lubwa Mission used literacy and intellectual agreement with the contents of the catechism as criteria for admission to church membership. For the Livingstonia Mission new members were incorporated into the structure of the Mission as teachers, evangelists, catechists, or paid employees of the Mission. The converts were initially mainly young men, exhibiting a westernized style of life. There emerged a competition between the White Fathers and the Livingstonia missionaries in the area of evangelisation. The phenomenon of evangelisation brought a rift between families and clans (Erie I, 1991).
In the 1940s Lubwa missionaries came under criticism by young mission teachers like Kaunda and Kapwepwe, who established a Chinsali Branch of the Northern Rhodesia African National Congress at Lubwa. There was opposition especially in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) to amalgamate or federate Northern and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).
As orally narrated by some old White Fathers like Fr Robert Lavertu, in 1955 Lubwa was confronted with a break-away movement, the Lumpa Church, led by Alice Lenshina (See also Fr Hinfelaars 1985, 1989). There was a fierce clash in 1964 between the Lumpa Church and UNIP and by then the colonial British Government was still in power and in charge of security. Many people died (1000) and this ended in the dispersal of the Lumpa Church. According to Robert Lavertu, a Missionary of Africa who was there at the time, some members of the Lenshina group dispersed into Congo, while others remained in Chinsali and elsewhere in Zambia (Luwingu district).

By Fr Patrick Mumbi

Missionary life at St. Thomas Parish, Mzuzu, Malawi


Our Parish is named after St Thomas the Apostle and its Parish Priest happens to be Fr. Thomas. St Thomas the Apostle Parish is a semi-rural parish in the Diocese of Mzuzu in Northern Malawi. The Parish was created in October 2013. It currently has 17 prayer stations, 2 in town and 15 in the villages. The rural outstations are characterized by their distance from the Presbytery, the low number of their Christians and the poor or inexistent structures. One of the churches is not accessible by car. Most of these churches have very lively liturgies where all members participate in praying, singing and dancing. Our main Apostolate rotates around the ordinary administration of the sacraments, teaching/training of the Christians in the context of primary evangelization, Justice and Peace and Integrity of creation, and development works.

As a child I grew up in a village which was not even an outstation. The Catechist was the hero of the faith through his way of organizing the spiritual life of the people. The priest only came to the village once a year, under a special request on the feast of patron saint of the Christian Community, St. Andrew. Sisters and seminarians occasionally came during the Lenten Campaign for 2 to 3 days of teaching. I guess this has affected my missionary approach to remote areas. In a parish like St. Thomas, the temptation is to settle in town where life is softer and Christians are more capable intellectually and financially, while neglecting the rural outstations which are difficult to reach and have small numbers of Christians. Aware of this risk, we have adopted an old but efficient Missionary strategy of spending days at the outstations to maximize our presence among the Christians. We often go as a team, sometimes including Christians from town. The Christians of the outstations are always glad to receive us in their places and they are more than happy to have us in their midst. Materials such as drawings and movies are still relevant pastoral tools in such areas.

Such a Missionary approach goes with its requirement in personnel and finances. It is quite difficult to go to the distant outstations when there is only one priest at the presbytery. I happened to be alone for most part of the year 2020 and despite all the good will, I could only visit the distant outstations during week days. Finances are also crucial for one to reach out to such places. This has compelled us to reflect on ways to empower the parish financially so that it has enough to cover these expenses. Apart from the traditional ways of collecting funds such as tithe and offertory, we have explored ways of generating funds even in rural outstations where the livelihood of people is low, making it difficult to contribute meaningfully. Our Parish does a bit of farming on two farms: One for food crops where we are currently adding a piggery, and the other for tree farming where we have planted beyond 500 apple trees. In town we have small hostels which students of a nearby Technical College rent. Having seen the advantage of this, we have undertaken to build a proper hostel to receive around 100 students, though we are facing some financial difficulties to finish the works. Once completed, this will not only boost the income of the parish but also create a venue for retreats and trainings during holidays.

While some of the development works are for Income Generation, others are aimed at responding to the needs of the parish and the communities around us in areas of infrastructure: offices, school blocks, boreholes, making of bridges/roads in some rural places to enhance accessibility.

After 7 years of existence, St Thomas the Apostle Parish has managed to meet most of its basic needs including salaries of all the workers, upkeep of the confreres and stagiaires working in it, and also the cost of transportation for ministry.

Justice and Peace is part and parcel of our daily pastoral activities. It is very common for us to have to deal with cases where the lives and property of people accused of witchcraft are threatened. We also deal with early girl marriages mainly in the rural areas of the parish. It is fulfilling when after a long struggle a family finally understands that their young daughter is better at school than in a marriage. Also, we attempt to respond to the yearly struggle of the less privileged people during the transitory period before the maturity of their crops, when they are exposed to hunger and starvation. The Justice and Peace Commission of our Parish is also active. Luckily, an oncoming workshop in August 2021 on accompaniment of victims of various injustices will increase their capacities.

By: Thomas Delwende Pouya M.Afr.

JPIC-ED: A SAFARI WITH ‘LAUDATO SI’


Justice and Peace and the Integrity of Creation and Encounter and Dialogue (JPIC-ED) of South African Province (SAP) in its entirety has been up to date in living and journeying with the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis, Laudato Si. Most, if not all of our confreres or communities, do understand and take to heart that our Mother Earth, who contains us, does also sustain us and govern us accordingly (cf. Laudato Si’ no. 1). At the same time, she expects us to be responsible of taking care of her according to God’s command. “God blessed them, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that move on earth.’ God also said, ‘Look, to you I give all the seed-bearing plants everywhere on the surface of the earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this will be your food. And to all the wild animals, all the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that creep along the ground, I give all the foliage of the plants as their food … God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen. 1:28-31). Pope Francis, in his wisdom and on behalf of the Church, emerged with the Encyclical Laudato Si‘ (LS) in response to such God’s command, while looking at the signs of the times. A timely moment of publishing it when human beings who are created in the image and likeness of God himself begin to abuse the Mother Earth; hence, endanger human species and all that she inhabits.

Most of our communities in the different Sectors of our Province have embraced this Encyclical not just from a ‘sermon point of view’ but also from a ‘pragmatic point of view.’ Many of our communities are engaged in different activities to making this exhortation a reality. A good and authentic reference can be found in our last JPIC-ED report to the Provincial Council, whereby it was clearly stated that most of our Communities/Parishes are engaged in planting pine trees, eucalyptus and cyprus trees, some fruit plants as well as up-grading mission compounds ecologically to a good standard while curtailing soil erosion. All this has not been done in isolation, but rather working hand in hand with the local or Parish Justice and Peace Committees or Commissions. This explicates clearly that Missionaries of Africa are not working in isolation but rather in collaboration with the local Church. The spirit of ‘I am because we are’ is very much integrated in implementing Laudato Si! This is very encouraging, and the larger communities in which we work are very appreciative of our approach.

Laudato Si‘ is a prophetic Encyclical as conflict in the future may be mainly caused by the exploitation of natural resources. In fact, the document has become highly influential and widely shared document of the Church as it urges humanity to have an attitudinal change towards the Mother Earth. It is for this reason that LS embraces three key words namely, respect, responsibility and relationship. Respect for each other as human beings who are created in the image and likeness of God; responsibility for what is entrusted to us, human beings, by the Creator; and positive relationship between the earth and human beings, among human beings themselves as well as between human beings and their Creator. “As Christians, we are also called ‘to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbours on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet’” (LS, no. 9).

It is clear that this document as we try to implement it in our own context as Missionaries of Africa within the communities we serve, needs to be understood not as a scientific document. It is a justice document applied to the Ecology. In other words, this document, can only be appreciated and understood if engaged as a social justice document as an expression of Catholic Social Teaching in its practical sense of the word. It follows Pope Francis’ prism based on encounter, dialogue and solidarity. It is realistic and pragmatic. It envisages “A word of paradigm shifts leading to centrality of justice, empowerment from below, a dynamic interaction between deductive and inductive method, interplay between the contextual and the universal” (Peter-John Pearson, Reflection on LS, p. 1). In a sense, LS follows a katabatic approach. It is justice document as it is the constituent of the mission of the Church. It is critical not only to Church’s life, but also to all who value and care for our common home just like us Missionaries of Africa who have taken it to heart. It provokes the sense of redeploying social power and the transformation of the social system. As a justice document, it is not a paracetamol pill or a tranquilliser document as W. Brueggemann states: “Justice is not some romantic social ideal for another world. It is the hard work of redeploying social power and the transformation of the social system. Those of us who benefit from inequality in the world are susceptible to blind spots and generally we struggle to keep those spots blind. But one must conclude from Micah and the whole prophetic tradition that the redistribution of social power is a crucial element of the Gospel, and that is a summons to justice.” Justice demands not only the avoidance of unnecessary pain, but fostering care and responsibility for the other, for the ‘Mother Earth’.

Based on the Social Catholic Teaching, while reading and interpreting the signs of the times, Laudato Si expresses a deep sense of the communitarian vision. This emanates from the Trinitarian principle which begins with the sign of the cross, expressing God who is Trinity. And of course, the Trinity is relational, is love; three in one, making part of the systematic theology. Surely, LS coheres around a theologically inspired communitarian ethic. Thus, it decries “… the classical liberal model where society is understood as an artificial contract between autonomous individuals undertaken for self-interest rather than fraternal reasons” (Schuck, p. 187). Its approach, therefore, takes a wider scope compared to other documents of the Church. Pope Francis quotes not only other Popes but also other different documents as well as individuals who compliment the care of our common home. This shows that the Church is not an isolated entity. She is part and parcel of the planet entity. This fits perfectly well with Charles Cardinal Lavigerie’s principle of Community Life.

The concern of Pope Francis to bringing out LS is a provocative challenge to us Missionaries of Africa. It is a serious call or invitation to us to look at all the signs of the times and find out not only short-term solutions but also long-term solutions to our ‘Mother Earth Crisis’ such as global warming and climate change, for which the future generations of Missionaries of Africa will appreciate us, and not condemn us. This implies that individuals alone cannot do much, the communitarian aspect of it at both local and global levels (i.e., Sectors, Provinces, Society and the Church at large) have necessarily to be engaged. Care for the common home is, indeed, our business as Missionaries of Africa!

By: Fr. James Ngahy, M.Afr.

In Memoriam Gotthard Rosner


Father Rudi Pint, Provincial Delegate of the sector of Germany, informs you of the return to the Lord of Father Gotthard Rosner on Wednesday September 2nd, 2020 in Munich (Germany) at the age of 79 years, of which 53 years of missionary life in Uganda, Switzerland, France, Italy, USA, Zambia UK and Germany.

Every now and then, there is a little controversy about the photo of an elderly confrere who died. Should we publish a recent photograph, which reflects the physical appearance of the confrere during the last years, or should we post an older picture, which will be acknowledged by the people he worked with when he was in Africa? Father Gotthard died on the second of September. He was a formator for many years and a superior general for 6 years. Many younger confreres have known him… with a beard, which he let go for the last few years.