An opportunity for tolerance and peace

Every day, Covid-19 reaches a new and heartbreaking milestone in our lives. On the day I am writing this article, March 25th, the figures show that more than 426,000 cases of coronavirus and 19,000 deaths have been registered. This is a new virus, which is keeping us confined to our homes and refocusing our relationships on a national and international level, including among ourselves as individuals. Every loss of a human being is a tragedy, and it obliges us to work hard to stop the spread of the virus and keep ourselves safe. There is no doubt that each and every country is fighting against this virus, although they do it in different ways, and encouraging the rest of the world to do the same, undoubtedly with a great deal of effort, because this is a task they have in common.

On the other hand, moments of crisis as serious as the one we are experiencing now present an opportunity to make use of technology, appreciate life, have faith and beliefs, be united and appreciate each other. Those who are battling coronavirus on the front line are neither recruits nor armed forces personnel; they are our doctors, nurses, pharmacists, teachers, carers, shop assistants, public service workers, owners of small businesses and employees... These people are risking their health and their lives for us, with true patriotism and dedication. We should value them and - above all - analyse whether we are investing enough in scientific research and, without any doubt, support them, as we are doing.

Our way of life is changing after being comfortable for a long time. Until now it was normal to touch things and breathe the air in an enclosed space with others; now we have to keep our distance... what we are facing today is a common enemy. It is a shared threat, that doesn't distinguish between one person and another. That's why this is the time to start promoting more constructive patterns in our cultural and political discourse.

The time for change is clearly maturing, to refocus politics, to make new and substantial investment in public assets, especially health and public services, to empower women, encourage scientific researchers and promote more values of tolerance and peace in our cultures. This virus, bad and damaging as it is, is going to force us to reconsider who we are and what we value, and it will also 'help' us to rediscover the best version of ourselves in order to achieve a more peaceful and stable world; in a way, it is driving the change, because it has already shown us the flaws in our medical attention systems, our research and academic systems, our systems of government, our security systems and our human relationships. We should rethink the use of technology to serve us in the most efficient way and facilitate our lives using virtual reality, augmented reality, telemedicine, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence.

I invite all of us to appreciate and support medicine, science, scientific research and human values, to encourage people to contribute to the economy and society and, fundamentally, to join forces to fight against this common enemy with faith, solidarity, tolerance, wisdom and human values. This is the right moment for there to be more defenders of tolerance and builders of peace.

Ahmed Bin Mohamed Aljarwan is president of the Global Council for Tolerance and Peace, an NGO based in Geneva, with its own International Parliament consisting of MPs from associated countries.