IRPJ's Statement on the Current COVID-19 Situation
POSTED: 17 March 2020
Dear IRPJ Family:
I hope you are all doing well — spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, physically — during this time of uncertainty. Know that you are all in my prayers.
While we are an online organization that is only minimally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Institute for Religion, Peace and Justice is still following the guidelines and regulations provided by the British Columbia and Canadian governments closely and continues to monitor the public health situation globally. Fortunately, our online delivery method for most of our courses means that there will be no interruption in the provision of our courses.
If any of our students experience COVID-19 symptoms, we encourage you to access testing immediately. If students are unable to complete their coursework because of COVID-19, or any other illness, we will work with you to ensure that you can complete your course(s) when you recover by extending the timeline for completion and taking any other helpful measures.
Often, in rare situations like the unpredictable one we're in now, there are unintended and unforeseen consequences that result from disruptions down the line, so I ask all students to please notify me right away if the current COVID-19 situation is indeed creating problems for you that adversely affect your ability to complete your coursework this semester.
For students who plan on completing a session of the Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CMU) this summer as part of your IRPJ Certificate, the most recent notice from CSOP is that their courses will be offered in June as planned. You may wish to keep up-to-date with their public notices on their website here: https://csop.cmu.ca/. Should the situation change, we will deal with any disruption on a case-by-case basis by finding alternative plans that are suitable to both IRPJ and the student. If any student has a concern about this, please feel free to let me know so we can come to a solution together.
IRPJ faculty will deal with other interruptions to practicums, other field work, or specific assignments on a case-by-case basis with the best interests of you, the student, at the forefront of our decision-making.
As of today, the remaining 4+ weeks of the semester will continue to unfold as scheduled, including all remaining video conferences with guest lecturers and faculty.
The health and safety of our students and faculty are our first concern, but rest assured that we are working diligently to provide the best educational opportunity possible to all of you.
As we look forward to the weeks and months ahead — including with many of you who are continuing IRPJ's Certificate program and/or SSU's M.A. or M.Min degree in the fall after this situation hopefully subsides — I wanted to write a brief reflection for you from a peace and justice perspective, but I think that I will instead simply quote a reflection written by an Orthodox monk on the Isle of Mull in Scotland and a good friend of mine, Fr. Seraphim Aldea, that I think captures this perspective better than I could've articulated. He advises,
This is not our time to ‘shine’ by showing empty courage and adolescent bravado. A Christian shines through humility and sacrifice of one’s self, sacrifice of one’s ‘courageous’ image in the world.
We are human beings, made of flesh and bones. Flesh and bones can become Chalices of God’s presence in the world, but they can also become ill. As a Christian, my duty is to comfort and to love, to keep myself and my neighbour from harm.
Please be kind to one another. Stop mocking those who are weaker and making them feel uncomfortable to protect themselves. Stop piling pressure on the shoulders of those who need compassion and encouragement. Even if you are not afraid, act weaker than the person next to you, so they may feel comfortable to express their fears.
Stop playing this macho game of a macho Christianity. Christ is Love, faith in Him is expressed by Love, not beating one’s chest and pointing to those who fear. If my reactions are not founded on love and humility, they are not founded on Christ.
This is the time to remind the world that Christians are not judges. We are not here to condemn, but to love. We are not here to mock our neighbour, but to become what he / she needs to find hope, to find peace, to find grace. Stand with the weak, stand with the fallen — this is our ‘job’ in the world.
The Church has always condemned those Christians who sought out martyrdom, those who ‘bravely’ offered themselves to be martyred, because their behaviour was not founded on humility and love. As for me, even if I get infected, at least I can stand before Christ and say that I tried my best to fight this and not to pass it onto anyone. The rest is in His hands, and glory be to Him for everything.
Pray for the weak and those most exposed, and try to help any way you can. Forget about ‘playing it cool’ — no one rejoices in our pride except the evil one. Be human. Be a human being, surrounded by human beings, loving them, helping them, protecting them. In this simple, living, non-'heroic’ attitude is the Cross that will lead to the Resurrection.
This is the Great Lent — let us carry each other’s cross, and not crucify our neighbour for the sake of a ‘good image’. The real ‘Good Image’ is inside, imprinted on our souls, and that Image can only be ‘meek and humble in heart’. —Fr. Seraphim Aldea
May this be our posture and prayer in our current situation and in life in general. And as these words resonate in your heart, may we also share in the prayer of St. Patrick whom we commemorate today and learn to pray the following words in and through those around us who are most vulnerable, marginalized, oppressed, and voiceless:
I arise today
through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me.
If you have any questions or need further assistance as you progress through your studies, please reach out to me so we can work through the situation together.
ANDREW P. KLAGER, PhD
Director – Institute for Religion, Peace and Justice
St. Stephen's University, New Brunswick
8 Main Street, St. Stephen, NB, E3L 3E2, Canada
email – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Institute for Religion, Peace and Justice respectfully acknowledges that we are located on the traditional and unceded territory of the Stó:lō and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) and Mi’kmaq Peoples.