Christian devotees gather at a Bethany church for a Christmas service in Surabaya on Dec. 25, 2022. (AFP/Juni Kriswanto)
A year that dealt a succession of crises, one after the other, even during its last, waning days, continues to bring surprises for all of us, worried and wearied citizens.
Without warning the Chinese government, responding to nationwide protests against the zero-COVID-19 policy, abruptly relaxed its draconian measures and as a result cases in the mainland soared through the roof.
Western think tanks put the number of infections in the millions and deaths in the thousands on a daily bases. And with the Chinese government lifting the quarantine policy for inbound travelers, countries around the world are now worried that infections could rise again as a result of increased traffic from China.
It is déjà vu all over again and once more the world is now back on edge. Japan, Italy, Malaysia and the United States have decided to tighten their borders, with Japan specifically mandating travelers from China to take COVID-19 tests and quarantine for those who are positive.
It remains to be seen if the Indonesian government will implement similar measures. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who has a good relationship with Chinese leader Xi Jinping has said that there is nothing to worry about.
Basically, this is Wuhan all over again and this further adds to the sense of foreboding.
This year, the war in Ukraine and the tensions in the Taiwan straits as well as the frequent missile launches from North Korea were enough to create jitters.
And especially in Ukraine, the prospect of nuclear weapons being used is now within the range of possibility. Since the invasion of Ukraine in February, Russian TV broadcasts have repeatedly discussed nuclear strikes on Western cities like Paris or New York.
Domestically, 2022 was a year full of trauma and as we start the countdown to the New Year, we have barely recovered from some of those tragedies.
In October, due to incompetence by the police and management of a local soccer club in East Java, 131 fans were killed in a stadium crush, making it the second-worst sports disaster in world history.
In November, a 5.6-magnitude earthquake in West Java, not only cost hundreds of lives but also reminded us with certain dread about the possibility of a major disaster happening very close to urban centers like Jakarta and Bandung.
But it was not all bad news. Soaring commodity prices kept the Indonesian economy humming this year and the success of the Group of 20 Summit in Bali, accentuated by President Jokowi’s visit to Kyiv and Moscow and his group photo with world leaders at a mangrove forest, significantly improved the country’s standing in the world.
And then, of course there was the soccer World Cup in Qatar, the best distraction that the sporting world could offer. And if there is one lesson we can draw from that tournament, especially from the life story of Argentinian star Lionel Messi, is that the road to victory is at times long, winding and torturous.
These past three years have been a test of our endurance but as the story of mankind has told us time and again, we can overcome any adversities. Here is to a more promising 2023.
(The Jakarta Post) Jakarta
● Fri, December 30, 2022
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