By Rev. Dr Carl-Mario Sultana from the Faculty of Theology
COVID-19 has stuck human beings worldwide unaware on many different levels. The most evident of these pertains to the health care profession, where all health care workers have had to take drastic measures to combat such a microscopic yet potentially deadly virus.
But COVID-19 has also struck us socially. We have all experienced the fact that from a social life which was going steady, at times even too fast, our social life was forced to a stall in a bid to combat the rapid spread of COVID-19. The fear of the unknown and of tomorrow has left a scar on our social and daily lives.
As a result of this, many communities have been deeply affected at their very core of existence; that of being together, of working together, of supporting each other. Examples of such communities are business communities, faith communities and academic communities, amongst which we find the University of Malta.
This state of affairs has triggered the creativity of many individuals, who have sought to survive the impact of COVID-19. Some restaurants, for example, have decided to adapt to the new situation and to start operating a delivery service. This has kept their business community going through the tough times. Faith communities have taken their celebrations beyond the confines of the spaces of worship, and through the different media retained a contact with their faithful.
The University of Malta as an academic community has retained contact with the different members of its community through exploiting technology. This has also kept the University of Malta on track with the educational goals it seeks to achieve. But many are asking: is this the type of community which we want at our University?
Primarily, when speaking about a community, we need to define what a community is, and how this is different from a society. I do not want to enter into any sociological debate at this stage, but the most evident difference is that we choose the community to which we want to belong. This choice is also visible in our personal choices and actions. Any community, including our University community, has common goals.
Each and every person in the University community, then, has to see that these goals are achieved, even though different paths are taken according to each and every person’s status and responsibility within the University. This brings to the forefront that physical proximity is not the only characteristic of a community. A community is made up of all those who form part of it, and who are ready to give up their time, energy and expertise to see that the community prospers.
We, as members of the University of Malta community, are all responsible in this enterprise, and the community can move on as long as, and as much as, we push together in the same direction. The onus of forming part of a thriving community is the individual.
This is in contrast to communities which act as service-stations. Wherever we go to a service-station, our aim is not stay there, but to get the service we need and move on. Unfortunately, this mentality has also been transferred to our communities, and at times, even to the University of Malta, where we reach out to the University, either to get a service or to give a service. On the other hand, COVID-19 has shown us that community is more that this. It is not only seeking to be in contact, but also striving to achieve goals even while being physically distant.
In my opinion, during the COVID-19 disruption to the daily functioning of the University, many positive things have been achieved. For one, my personal experience has shown me that there are many dedicated individuals, who are ready to help in the building up, and in the maintaining of the University community, even when this calls them to act beyond what is expected of them. I have also discovered many hidden talents and positive characteristics of persons whom I knew before this situation, but was never aware of such positive traits!
COVID-19 may have disrupted our daily routines, but let us not lose what we have achieved! Ubi Concordia, ibi Victoria – where there is unity, there is victory!
Disclaimer: Opinions and thoughts expressed within this article do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Malta.