Role of Churches in times of crisis

Editor

The imposition, of the unprecedented nation-wide lockdown for 21 days to fight the coronavirus pandemic, by the regime, is seen as welcome step by most netizens in order to combat the crisis. What is extraordinary about this lockdown is its magnitude. Never before in history, has a curfew been imposed on such a large number of people and if successful, hundreds of thousands will be saved from the infection and the epidemic curve, a statistical chart used to visualize when and at what speed new cases are reported, could be flattened, rather than being allowed to rise exponentially.  However, this imposition, has ignored all of India’s social realities and in turn would bring in dire consequences for the common mass. The poor and impoverished would be the worst affected. Meghalaya is a state comprising large sections of migrant labourers, vendors, domestic workers that fall under the un-organized sector and are categorized as daily wage earners. For them no work for 21 days would mean no income and the likelihood is, some will run out of food in the coming days.

The Finance Minister under the Prime Minister Garib Kalyan Scheme has announced food for the poor and cash for the needy and the execution of such a scheme to reach a population of 1.3 billion sounds tough. It is in such times, that structural institutions, within their own territorial jurisdiction, must join hands in helping the needy and impoverished. The Sikh community from Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha is distributing cooked food and the Archdiocese of Shillong has just initiated a process of communication to its parish centres and institutions to mobilize food distribution and quarantine spaces in different centres. However, Meghalaya which comprises of maximum Christian followers has seen little or zero intervention from church bodies when it comes to situations of crisis.

Most churches in the city only seek divine intervention against the threat of the pandemic, but the church in itself, which is God’s representative here on earth, has to also reach out with humanitarian help. Churches can play a major role in helping the poor, by making their facilities (read donations) accessible which is their biggest asset and often underutilized.  They often have a huge database of all followers and in turn, can even act as a platform to help connect the local traders from the respective localities in meeting the demands of the consumers residing in that particular locality. Preference should also be given by the churches to the aged and elderly who have no access to markets. Local churches, because of their relationships with the community, and because of value of care, compassion and fairness can play a natural role in holding others, whether NGO’s or local administration, to account for their treatment of the most vulnerable, who can otherwise be easily overlooked.

The local church can also play an important role in ensuring that the most vulnerable receive a fair share of food and health care, as in our communities, church leaders carry a degree of respect and influence, giving weight to their advocacy. Church leaders should not only be involved in evangelism and discipleship. It is essential for the faithful to connect between faith and deeds as illustrated in the Bible. (James 2:26- As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead”) In these difficult times, given the sorry state of health care, structural institutions must come together, as prevention is the only cure in India.

Yours etc.,

Rayner Dkhar,

Via email

Meghalaya’s approach to COVID 19

 

 Editor, 

Where the Central government has declared a nationwide lockdown, we did what we do best, imposed curfew. What this essentially means is that while in other states, essential services, including grocery stores, medical departments, dairy outlets are exempted, in Meghalaya there is a complete shutdown.

If we for once assume that this was a good idea and a very proactive step by State authorities to contain the pandemic, what happened during the 9 am to 5 pm relaxation in the city of Shillong should have opened our eyes. The relaxation, at least in East Khasi Hills District, was only extended to two to three departmental stores and pharmacies per locality in most places (Laitumkhrah and Nongrim Hills are obvious exceptions).  This meant that 30,000 people (assuming families of 5 in a population of 1.4 lakh people) had to crowd a limited number of stores for essential supplies more so because we did not even get the 4 hours of notice that the PM gave to stock up as we’ve been shut way before that. I stood in a line for 2 hours today and still came back empty handed. The people in front of me used all the tactics they could think of to ensure that a lot of us didn’t even make it inside and the ones that did, took forever to leave thus proving that urban individuals live only for themselves. But this is not merely the fault of insensitive citizens. After a three day curfew, did it make any sense to create such bottlenecks that inadvertently became high risk zones of contamination?

So what did we essentially achieve today? For starters, it completely tossed the idea of social distancing out of the window. For the main course, it brought out the human instinct for self preservation (read selfish) in its full glory and for dessert, the mayhem is going to continue into the next day because most stores ran out of supplies while many in the overcrowded queues did not make it to the front of the line.

The bottomline is that we need better alternatives. If the virus does exist among us, a significant population was definitely infected today, and they didn’t even get any supplies.

Yours etc.,

Pratyasha Ghosh

Shillong-4

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