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The Coronavirus Diaries: Resilience and Hope

Wednesday September 1

The Rev Prof Jerry Pillay says South Africa is remaining strong in faith in the face of the pandemic


The coronavirus situation in South Africa has proved to be most challenging, with almost 2.8 million positive cases identified and 81, 830 deaths to date.

The vaccine roll-out started late, with our country trying to secure vaccines from suppliers. We are now in full swing with almost 12.3 million people vaccinated yet far from the set target. We are currently in lockdown level 3 which means that a lot of Covid-19 restrictions are still in place. While most companies, restaurants, schools and public places are open, they have to adhere to strict Covid-19 protocols. Most higher education institutions continue to work online and staff and students work from home.

We are trying to adjust to the new ‘normal’, but many are finding this not easy. In particular, churches are struggling because they are not allowed to have more than 50 people in a service; a great majority of churches have decided to remain closed to public worship. Many of them have resorted to online services but this would obviously exclude the millions of poor people in the country who cannot access these electronic platforms for the lack of devices, data and internet connectivity.

Noteworthy, though, is many churches in spite of their challenges are providing food, counselling, payer and support for people in physical, mental, emotional and spiritual need. Churches have found creative and innovative ways of continuing with ministries as they reach out to the millions of people who have lost jobs, businesses, and family and friends through death. There are so many tragic stories of people dying alone in hospitals because family were not allowed to visit them and loved ones had to be laid to rest without family in attendance because of illness and the limited numbers of 50 people at a funeral.

On the strongly encouraging side it is important to note that more than 2.5 million people have recovered from Covid-19 infections in our country. Among that list is myself. I was infected in June and was seriously ill, wondering whether I was going to survive the illness. However, by God’s grace I recovered fully and remain thankful that I was able to return to my busy life as Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Pretoria.

My wider family was severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. My brother’s wife passed away after 20 days in hospital. Many of my close friends have died, or were infected and are still struggling to recover. In my faculty about 17 members of staff were infected but now most have fully recovered, and three students who just completed their PhDs succumbed to the virus. In my denomination, the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa, several ministers and many congregants have passed away. Indeed, this has been a traumatic and challenging time. The third wave has been seriously devastating and we are told that we should be expecting a fourth wave and possibly more in the months ahead, with even stronger variants.

In spite of the alarming and concerning situation brought about by the pandemic, what is prevalent amongst us in South Africa is resilience and hope. We continue to put our trust in the God of life and hope. We remain steadfast in prayer, strong in faith as we do our bit to protect ourselves and others as we patiently wait for this pandemic to pass, and deep in our spirits we do believe that though it may stay with us for long; it will not stay forever. The goodness, mercy, protection and love of God will always triumph.


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The Coronavirus Diaries: reflections from Church of Scotland partners around the world

Nigeria: Life is Gradually Coming Back
Nepal: Our Deadliest Enemy
Malawi: A Crisis That Will Not Go Away
Kenya: Covid is Real
Belgium: Some Silver Linings
South Africa: Will We Keep Listening?
Zimbabwe: Untold Sufferings
A Deep and Inconsolable Loss: Tribute to Phumzile Mabizela
Malawi: This Was Very Real
Sri Lanka: Daily Numbers are Shocking
Jerusalem: Virtual Prisoners
Bangladesh: We Will Survive by the Grace of God
Nepal: Exhausting and Often Heartbreaking
Malawi: God Has Been Faithful to Us
France: Thankful For What I Have
India: Love Your Neighbours
A Nigerian in Scotland: Alone But Not Lonely
Taiwan: When We Work Together, We Achieve the Best Results
Hungary: We Mourn Each Loss
Zambia: Preparing for the Vaccine, and a Third Wave
World Communion of Reformed Churches: The 'Covid and Beyond' Church
Pakistan: Passing the Light
Lebanon: The Lord Will Not Forsake Us
South Korea: 'It is Time For Christians to Hear the Marginalised'
Cuba: Keep Moving On
Canada: Cracks Have Been Exposed
Kenya: Leave No Child Behind
USA: Homes of Prayer
Mozambique: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
A Spaniard in Scotland: The Power of Movement
South Sudan: Being Positive
A Nigerian in Scotland: God is in Charge
Trinidad and Tobago: New Frontiers
Czech Republic: A Challenge for Everybody
Switzerland: An Outpouring of Solidarity and Creativity
The West Bank: A Landscape of Broken Dreams
Nepal: So Many Premature Goodbyes
Malawi: We Must Hold Each Other Close
Nigeria: A Fresh Spiritual Connectedness
Egypt: 'This Is A Time To Witness God'
Guyana: The Strength of our Connectedness
South Korea: A Harsh Reality
Zimbabwe: Convenience or a Wake-up Call?
Sri Lanka: Service is the Highest Form of Worship
USA: Testing Positive
Portugal: The Mission of the Church Has Not Changed
World Council of Churches: A New Dawn is Upon us
Hungary: Physically Distant but Close in Spirit
A German in Scotland: Something New Has Already Begun
Myanmar: We Will Overcome this Hardship
Ghana: This Too Shall Pass
Brazil: The Least We Can Do
Kenya: Caring for One Another in Christ
An Indian in Germany: A Time of Enrichment
Argentina: Time in Between
Malawi: 'My identity in Christ remains unchanged'
Jerusalem: Being Rather than Doing
Malawi: No Lockdown and an Election
Zambia: 'I will never leave you... or forsake you'
Czech Republic: The Covid Cover-up
Zambia: 'All Life is Sacred'
Israel/Palestine: 'The Air is Clear'
Nepal: 'Please Pray for Us'
Malawi: Tough Dilemmas
Italy: 'Together, We Will Get Through It'