At the moment it is a perception which will later be studied with the instruments of social science. In the meantime, with a global virus that holds the world under a veil of uncertainty, one thing is evident, “conflict is worsening everywhere”. This is the opinion held by one of the experts called by Pope Francis as a member of the Vatican Covid-19 Commission. Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies & Diplomacy at SOAS at the University of London, highlights the risk that the pandemic could trigger a “global war”. “A literal fight for the vaccine of survival in our communities”, he says, “must be prevented” and neither “is not the time to be making and providing weapons”. Rather, Dan Plesch states, “global society can save itself from terrible misery and enjoy safety and happiness by absorbing the contribution of Pope Francis’s Commission”.
You are part of the Vatican COVID 19 Commission, Pope Francis’ response mechanism to an unprecedented virus. What do you personally hope to learn from this experience? In what way do you think society as a whole can be inspired by the work of the Commission?
R. – I have absorbed wisdom and compassion from other Commission members. Global Society can save itself from terrible misery and enjoy safety and happiness by absorbing the contribution of Pope Francis’s Commission.
Pope Francis asked the COVID 19 Commission to prepare the future instead of prepare for it. What should be the role of the Catholic Church as an institution in this endeavor?
R. – Humanity is under a combination of threats accelerated by the impact of the virus, our very existence is in immediate peril therefore all dimensions of the Catholic Church must before all else work on these concrete and spiritual actions. Now is not the time to be making and providing weapons in an already collapsing international system.
What personal lessons (if any) have you derived from the experience of the pandemic? What concrete changes do you hope to see after this crisis both personally and globally?
R. – Personally, I have grown closer to my immediate family and friends freed from the treadmill of commuting.
Five years ago, a well-known American entrepreneur the new enemy could be invisible. Can an invisible virus provoke a war?
R. – Tensions, competition, hatred of foreigners, scape goats, incompetent leaderships all are made worse by the virus, if we escape unscathed we will be very fortunate.
The coronavirus crisis has brought not only individual but also national selfish attitudes. This type of nationalism sparks dangerous feelings of anger towards others, even if they too have a nationalist bent. History is unfortunately full of such examples that have led to conflicts. Does this risk exist today?
R. – Yes, we have a little time. The “volcanic” impact of the virus is still underway and the “tsunami” of social catastrophy is coming and must be robustly prepared for.
Inequalities are enormous. Take, for example, access to healthcare in various countries across the globe. Does the hypothesis of a vaccine that is not accessible to everyone entail the risk of conflict?
R. – A literal fight for the vaccine of survival in our communities must be prevented. The poor must be at the front of the queue.
Regarding those who today suffer from hunger: how willing are they to fight for access to healthcare? In various African countries, people say they prefer Covid to hunger. Could the combination of the two, pandemic and hunger, be a dangerous spark?
R. – There is a terrible choice that is unnecessary. The selfishness of the wealthy is a theft.
What parts of the world are at greater risk of war breaking out because of Covid? in the rich and divided north, or the poor and hungry south?
R. – Conflict is worsening everywhere, a slide to global war is too hard to think about for too many.
Pope Francis and Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the UN, have launched a ceasefire appeal wherever there are conflicts in the world, in order to foster the fight against the coronavirus. Why have these appeals not been heeded?
R. – The short-sighted power interests continue as usual, and the wealthy feel immune to the distress influencing the lives of the many.
Several times, even well before the pandemic, Pope Francis has often spoken of a “third world war fought piecemeal”. So, in your opinion, should we fear another worldwide conflict provoked by an invisible virus, or has one already effectively begun that we should be dedicating ourselves to extinguishing?
R. – Both!