When panic sets in, tragic things happen. Between the years 1347-1352, the Black Plague swept across Europe and somewhere between 75 and 200 million people died. In some cities and towns, the population was cut in half. It had a devastating effect on every aspect of life in Europe.
The plague arrived in Basel in June of 1348. Looking for someone or something to blame, suspicion fell on the Jewish community. Jews were accused of poisoning the drinking wells in the city. Several members of the Jewish community were arrested and tortured until they confessed to their crimes. On January 9, 1349, a mob in the city attacked and murdered over 600 Jews in what has been called the Basel Massacre. Many were locked in a barn which was then set on fire. The local rabbi was burned at the stake. Afterward, the city council passed a decree forbidding Jews to live in Basel for the next 200 years.
It’s hard to believe that this happened in our city. People do horrible and terrible things when they are frightened and insecure. It doesn’t take much to get people worked up about viruses or plagues, and suddenly the mob is off and running. In the 14th century, they took it out on the streets; today, they are more likely to head over to Twitter. Either way, the mob can do a lot of damage.
As we walk through this current time in Basel, we don’t face anything like the Black Plague. Yet, there are still voices that would seek to unsettle the masses and stir up people. We should be more enlightened. We have good information and excellent medical care. We are well-equipped to face the challenges of the day.
As believers, we have an opportunity to share our reasons for experiencing peace and not panic. Of course, we have to exercise what one person calls ‘sanctified common sense’, but we don’t need to resort to fear. Our calling is to pray for our city. “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7)
Keep our city and the world in your prayers. Pray that there will not be panic or fear but rather wisdom and courage to address this infection in a timely and sensible way. Pray that we might have opportunity to share our hope and reason for security. Pray for the peace of the city where God has called us.