by Mats Tunehag
The effects of the coronavirus are disruptive beyond comprehension. The situation is changing by the hour. The consequences vary from difficult to dire for billions of people, and nobody knows what the timeline is for this crisis.
Media across the world updates us constantly on the negative effects on businesses and on people’s lives, so this short article will have a different focus: what can we do?
But first let’s note that throughout history the Church has a track record of serving others in the midst of major plagues and catastrophes.
“The sociologist Rodney Stark has written (in The Rise of Christianity) that one reason the church overcame hostility and grew so rapidly within the Roman empire traces back to how Christians responded to pandemics of the day, which probably included bubonic plague and smallpox. When infection spread, Romans fled their cities and towns; Christians stayed behind to nurse and feed not only their relatives but their pagan neighbors.” (Living in Plague Times – Phillip Yancy)
Why has the Church done this for centuries and why should we do it now? One fundamental reason is that we are to love God and our neighbors, and the two are connected. As Bishop Barron says: “Why are the two commandments so tightly linked? Because of who Jesus is. Christ is not simply a human being, and he is not simply God; rather, he is the God-man, the one in whose person divinity and humanity meet. Therefore, it is impossible to love him as God without loving the humanity that he has embraced. The greatest commandment is, therefore, an indirect Christology.” 
Many businesses are facing challenges with cashflow, lockdown, sales, having to let staff go, supply chain disruptions, bankruptcies, et cetera. So, what can we do now?
Let me suggest seven areas for action as it relates to BAM businesses and the global BAM community. We also invite you to add your suggestions.
Please do share your thoughts and suggestions by responding to our Reader Survey
Seek God, listen to Him.
- Pray for BAMers and BAM businesses.
- Pray for divine wisdom and intervention.
- Pray for creative thinking and innovative solutions.
- Use St. Patrick’s BAM prayer, available in five languages.
- Ask friends in business how you can pray for them!
- Start or join online prayer groups for BAMers and businesses
Please check Larry Sharp’s helpful blog for some ideas on BAM-related prayer points.
How else can we pray for BAMers and BAM business?
We can help BAM businesses by engaging their services and buying their products:
- Support local businesses by buying their products and services when possible.
- Shop online.
- Do your Christmas shopping now!
- Buy gifts and give to neighbors, family and people in need.
How else can we help businesses, both local and far away?
There is a need for financial, intellectual and social capital.
Many businesses face issues with sales, revenue and cashflow, and could benefit from donations and loans. We need contingency funds.
Can you help a business with advice, can you be a coach and mentor? You may be an experienced business person who has gone through tough times and learned important lessons.
Can you help connect BAM business with people who can help? With sales? Marketing? Access to loans? To support peer groups?
Do you know of contingency funds? Mentors that are willing, qualified and available? Practical suggestions regarding helpful connections?
4. Remember the poor
The coronavirus crisis affects the poor more than most others. Millions of self-employed have lost their jobs and thus income. There are even more people who are day laborers who work in the informal economy, have no safety nets, and in a lockdown situation they may lose income day 1, and may be out of food soon after. And they have limited access to healthcare. 
The mantra many of us hear – “work from home, wash your hands frequently, and keep physical distance” – is not possible for millions of people.
Some headlines from India, Africa and Nepal:
One group in Thailand provides care packages of food to vulnerable women in the sex industry, who lost their daily earnings because of lockdown.
Another example is an African American woman in North Carolina, USA, who “feeds more than 100 families every day during the COVID-19 pandemic”, see report and video.
What other encouraging initiatives do you know of?
Many of us have to stay home, and this may open up opportunities to study. Being mindful that our present crisis is unique, albeit not the first one, we should also study lessons learnt from previous significant world changing events. We should also – even now – try to draw lessons in and from the present crisis.
Let me give a few concrete suggestions:
- In a time of “corona imposed monasticism”: let the Word of God come alive, learn from those who have gone before us, and enjoy God’s creation. See Bishop Barron’s reflections of these three things in this video.
- Check the BAM Global Reports and study two foundational documents for the BAM Movement: The BAM Manifesto and the Wealth Creation Manifesto.
- In a time with major dramatic changes we should remind ourselves about countries which have been transformed in our lifetime. It will give hope and inspiration during these stressful times. Learn from Israel, Singapore and Rwanda, which have succeeded against many odds. See four recommended books in footnote.
I am just now reading a book which describes, analyses and compares 12 Church encyclicals from 1891 to 2009. They deal with topics like business, wealth creation, profit, workers rights, private property, democracy, socialism, theology of work, human dignity, human rights, free markets, democratic capitalism – all from a Bible based perspective mindful of both historical roots and contexts. One of the best is the John Paul II encyclical from 1991: Centesimus Annus. I also warmly recommend the book!
What books, articles, videos, and podcasts do you recommend? What are you learning?
This global crisis is bigger and more complex than we have ever experienced before in our generation. We are not just going through it and coming back to normal. Things are and will be changing. Thus, we need to review our business presuppositions, and possibly regroup even now. There are of course also new business opportunities during and after the crisis.
Praxis is “a creative engine for redemptive entrepreneurship, supporting founders, funders, and innovators motivated by their faith to renew culture and love their neighbors”. Three of Praxis’ leaders have written a thought-provoking essay dealing with these issues: “In this essay we will explain why we think that for most organizations — businesses, nonprofits, and even churches — this is a time to urgently redesign our work.” This is highly recommended reading!
What are you and your business and/or organization doing to regroup?
7. Don’t give up!
Why pursue BAM? God wants it, the world needs it and we are called to it! It is part of a greater godly plan which the Jews call tikkun olam: repairing the world. We are living in the tension of the world that is and the world as it ought to be. Thus, we pray “may your Kingdom come, and may your will be done on earth as in heaven”.
Tikkun olam means co-creating with God, bridging the gap of the world which is to a world as it ought to be. During and after the corona crisis we are to repair and heal people’s lives and improve the world, bringing hope and healing to the world, also through business.
As the markets plunge due to the corona crisis, let us learn from Jeremiah: “The prospects were not good. Actually really bad, even disastrous. The city was under siege, and everything pointed towards a defeat. People would be assaulted, hurt and killed; houses burnt down and the remaining citizens of Jerusalem would be deported to a foreign land. In this doomsday context the prophet Jeremiah was told by God to make an investment – in the doomed city!”
Sounds like bad advice, maybe like investing during the corona crisis. But God showed that the marketplace will be restored again one day, and God was engaged to that end, and He still is. See my earlier blog God Restores the Market Place.
As we pursue BAM and tikkun olam, we mustn’t lose hope or give up as we are facing tough times. Emmanuel – God is with us.
PS. Please share your thoughts and suggestions here:
Now also available in Russian: Пандемия коронавируса и «Бизнес как Миссия»: семь вещей, которые мы можем делать
And Portuguese: A PANDEMIA DO CORONAVIRUS E O BAM: 7 COISAS QUE PODEMOS FAZER
Mats Tunehag is a senior global ambassador for BAM and has worked in over half the countries of the world. He is the chairman of BAM Global and contributes to TransformationalSME.org. Visit MatsTunehag.com for BAM resources in 19 languages.
1. Bishop Barron’s reflection on today’s gospel reading from Mark 12:28 – 34, on March 20, 2020.
2. These are very vulnerable people who in some cases also are badly treated when they are just trying to survive these dire circumstances, see for example this report.
3. Israel is an example of a small nation with limited natural resources and with hostile neighbors, which has been transformed to a prosperous world-leading innovator. Singapore was poor and became independent in 1965. It looked at Israel as a model. Today it is another world-leading country; amazingly well functioning, green, safe, clean, and prosperous. Rwanda went from a genocide and devastated country in 1994, to become a beacon in many ways in sub-Saharan Africa. It gleaned on Israel and Singapore.
* Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, by Dan Senor &Saul Singer
* From Third World to First: The Singapore Story – 1965-2000, by Lee Kuan Yew
* Rwanda, Inc.: How a Devastated Nation Became an Economic Model for the Developing World, by Patricia Crisafulli and Andrea Redmond
* Beating the Odds Together: 50 Years of Singapore-Israel Ties, by Mattia Tomba. 2019
4. Papal Economics: The Catholic Church on democratic Capitalism, by Maciej Zieba. 2013
5. The world has gone through major changes in the last 150 years, sometimes through major wars and political upheavals. The industrialization, unbridled capitalism, the growth of dictatorial communism, the end of the cold war, and the greatest lift out of poverty in the history of mankind – which has happened through business. Significant Christian thinking has gone into analyzing these developments from Biblical and church related perspectives.
6. The context is the upheaval of the cold war, the collapse of communism, and a cataclysmic change for hundreds of millions of people. Read Encyclical here.