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"Corona" (Covid-19) and the Ethics of Global Solidary Charity

By Peter Turkson

In the globally networked world, the corona pandemic is the biggest challenge facing humanity since World War II. For the capitalist Western industrialized nations with their highly developed health care systems, it has created a situation in which unprecedented decisions have to be taken concerning civil rights and freedoms. 

Free democratic societies in the modern era regard the state as the servant of the individual citizen and his or her pursuit of happiness. But when it comes to the fundamental purpose behind individual freedom, this creates a vacuum that must be filled – as for example in Germany with the reference to human dignity in Article 1 of the Basic Law. 

Pope Benedict XVI pointed out that mankind has a responsibility not to accept crises with resignation, but to act in hope to change their course. If we transfer this principle to the corona pandemic, the role of the state is not limited to balancing competing rights of freedom. Particularly in a social market economy like Germany’s, the crisis has promoted reflection on the importance of solidarity, the resulting order of individual freedoms, and the distribution of resources for the common good. This applies not only in the health sector but also, for example, to efficient and effective climate protection. An awareness of one’s own vulnerability can therefore grow into a global diakonia in the spirit of the recent encyclical from Pope Francis.

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