Dear Friends and Colleagues.
The entire planet has been and continues to pass through a very strange and painful time. The COVID-19 pandemic has enforced much of the world’s population into some sort of isolation as the pandemic peaks into recurring waves. Each of us has now seen the dramatic impact of lockdowns around the world on air traffic and on the global aviation industry. Our airports have been empty. It will take years for airlines and airports to recover from this tragedy and while many of us were unable to visit the airport in which we serve, the presence and ministry of airport chaplains will be more essential than ever in airports around the world.
Finding strength in an uncertain time
In chapter 7 of the book of Judges in the 1st Testament of the Bible, Gideon and the people of Israel are facing the uncertainty of a battle against Midian. God tells Gideon to go to the camp of his enemy “go down to the camp and listen to what they are saying. Afterward you will be encouraged to attack the camp” (v. 10 & 11). It might have looked like a very strange strategy for Gideon who was understandably quite afraid to follow this advice. But he went, listened to a man telling a dream to his companion who interpreted it as the vision of the victory of Gideon who was then strengthened and encouraged to pursue the battle.
In time of uncertainty we need to have our ears and spirit open in order not to lose our purpose, faith and vision. For in the strangest advice and the weirdest dreams might come the wisest solution and the most creative vision of the future. Creativity is what we need. I am actually quite amazed at the creativity of teachers, doctors, nurses, religious leaders, families and individuals who have reinvented their practice and daily life and this, I must say, gives me hope and strength in my faith for a renewed future. This same creativity has been developed by airport chaplains and will moreover be needed to reinvent our service to airports communities. And when we can’t find the strength, courage and creativity in our inner life, maybe listening to the voice of God or of our fellow humans (even sometime from our enemies) might open new perspectives and hopes to go ahead with our lives and ministry.
With difficult times come difficult choices and although it seemed like the only and obvious one, cancelling our 2020 Conference was a painful decision that the Board had to make last year. It is particularly painful, as I believe we need the fellowship and the mutual encouragement we find in our annual conference. But it was necessary. But out of this decision came some good things.
Although nothing will replace a face-to-face encounter, the October online conference we facilitated, provided an opportunity for many chaplains who can’t usually attend our conferences to connect with us and enjoy the fellowship of our association. In reviewing the survey results following our online conference, the Board came to the conclusion there was a high level of support for a link up at least twice a year. June 14th has been chosen as the date for a IACAC meeting. More detail is contained within this Newsletter
This year we hope to be able to meet together again in Nairobi for our annual conference but we are aware that there are chaplains who will still not be able to attend in person. The Board is working with our Nairobi Chaplaincy Host team to plan a conference that has a daily online component as well. We hope you will put the conference dates 17th -22nd October in your diary and plan to attend in whatever medium that works for you.
Deepening our spirituality in isolation
After Christians around the world have been through Lent and Easter and our Jewish friends have observed the Passover in this difficult time, it is now the turn of Muslims around the world to go through Ramadan, one of the 5 pillars of their faith. Community and fellowship is an essential part of most if not all world faith. Wherever we are, we need to create new ways to maintain and strengthen this fellowship. But isolation is also an opportunity for each of us to deepen our spirituality and to “constantly remain connected with our creator”.
Pierre de Mareuil, President
Paris-Charles de Gaulle