Welcome to Dr Michael Nazir-Ali’s official website.
Here you will be able to find out about the current
President of OXTRAD and former Bishop of Rochester and
his work. Thank you for visiting his page.


Posted on Wed 6 May 2020

We need to start reopening our society, not just the economy

Quite understandably, a great deal is being said about “opening up the economy”. People are conscious of the damage being done to business, and to their own income and savings. We should be getting back to work gradually but also speedily, with safety but also with effectiveness. The need, however, is not just economic: we are not merely homo economicus, we are also homo socius. It is society as a whole which needs to be opened up. We do not live by work or wealth alone.

One area of concern is education. While much can be done electronically, it cannot replace the warmth and intimacy of face-to-face teaching. These days, I am supervising students and lecturing through electronic means, but it is not the same as personal contact, with its fellow feeling and freedom of questioning.

Many are worried that they cannot visit relatives or friends who need care or company. Those living on their own have experienced sometimes frightening loneliness. I called on a lady (at a safe distance) who had not seen anyone since March. This is clearly not sustainable and will have a significant impact on the mental health of those thus isolated. The costs of mental illness, breakdowns and suicides will be a high price to pay if isolation continues for any length of time.

We need to travel for work and, if not for leisure, then certainly for family reasons: to visit the sick or to comfort the sad, for births, Christenings, weddings and funerals. The fragmentation of the family had already gone too far, but prolonged isolation will make family ties weaker when we need to make them stronger. Friendships also are formed and nurtured by meeting with one another and eating and drinking together. For a short period, they can be sustained remotely but not indefinitely.

It may be that big concerts and the theatre are out of the question for now, but we need our souls fed and our imaginations stimulated. Museums, galleries and libraries are not luxuries but essential for a civilised society and should be reopened as soon as possible, while making sure safety measures are in place.

Talking of souls, people will need, with safety, to go to places of worship to find solace and comfort, to meditate on what has happened and to prepare for the challenging days ahead. Many religious communities where people go to find counsel, quiet and comfort have closed their doors to visitors. They must be allowed to exercise the hospitality which is one of the reasons for their existence. With parks, gardens and the countryside, we need access to them not merely for physical exercise but for our overall wellbeing.

There has been much talk of opening up spectator sport, even if only for TV audiences. This will be a welcome diversion from the sheer boredom which has affected sports fans. It is, however, participatory sport which is so important for the health of young and old alike. We must allow it to begin again, especially to direct the energies of the young into constructive channels. For many, gyms have become a staple of their lives. With safeguards, their reopening can only improve the health of the people.

Economic activity is important if we are to produce the wealth we need for other expressions of our human nature, but the latter cannot be ignored if we are aiming for a creative, healthy and happy population. The “reopening” in the coming days has to be about society as a whole, in its manifold manifestations, and not just about the office, the shop and the factory floor.

This article was first published in the Daily Telegraph Wednesday 6th May 2020 and can be accssed here

All content ©2022Dr Michael Nazir-Ali.
Website by David Turner design by ninefootone.