‘The pain is overwhelming’: As India’s Covid crisis deepens, we need Christians to act

By Joseph D’Souza*

As coronaviris cases in India pass 20 million and oxygen shortages push the healthcare system to the brink of collapse, Indian church leader Bishop Joseph D’Souza, issues an urgent plea to Christians around the world.

Global media have characterised India’s current Covid-19 crisis as a descent into hell or an apocalyptic catastrophe.

The media talks about the failure of our healthcare system and lack of governance. All of this has some truth in it, but for those of us who are grappling with the tragedy of this mutant virus on a human level, the pain is simply overwhelming.

Covid-19 is infecting and killing people regardless of their religion, ethnicity or caste. While images of cremations in our cities have gone viral, I have seen coffin makers forced to hire more workers to keep up with demand as people continue to die at alarming rates.

Unimaginable sorrow

A man, who worked with me years ago, and his wife were both taken by the virus recently. They leave behind a young daughter who is just finishing her nursing training. She now faces a life without parents; her sorrow is unimaginable.

This is a wake-up call to middle class India who thought private hospitals would alleviate the health needs of the nation.

A Hindu lawyer who aided our work at the Dignity Freedom Network (DFN) for a decade was suddenly laid low by this virus a couple of days ago. He was healthy, fit and exercised regularly. But now his wife and two very young kids must pick up the pieces of their lives without him. The family could not even say goodbye as his body was taken straight from the hospital to the crematorium. They are traumatised.

An awakening of social conscience

We dread what the month of May will bring. Doctors predict a peak period when we will see 500,000 to 1 million cases of infection per day. The authorities need to realise that by suppressing and denying accurate estimations of infections and deaths, they are doing a great disservice to both the people of India and the world.

What India needs right now is an awakening of the public social conscience in the midst of heartbreak and anger. We desperately need to reach out in compassion to the millions who will suffer in the days and weeks to come. The government cannot solve all our problems. Its ability is limited.

India’s civil society needs to work as one to address the needs of our broken health infrastructure. We have known for years that the system is lacking. We need to fill in the gaps by compassionately serving our neighbours.

Middle class wake-up call

This is a wake-up call to middle class India who thought the emergence of private hospitals would alleviate the health needs of the nation — or at least the needs of their own social class — with little to no concern for the poor.

Around the world, we are now forced to answer the question of how to help India build a robust national healthcare infrastructure so that people have adequate support in the wake of such calamities. The Covid-19 crisis is far from over.

We will pour our lives out, even if it costs us our lives.

At the onset of the pandemic, we at the DFN knew that the one way to make a difference and provide Christ’s love and healing would be to develop a national virtual healthcare system. Because of this, tens of thousands of women, children and men have been helped. Countless lives have been saved.

The universal ministry of healing

Health is a fundamental human right and people of faith must work together to ensure we carry out the ministry of healing even in the darkest periods in our history with whatever resources we have. We have a responsibility to contribute our resources in whatever ways possible as we show love to a hurting world.

As Christians, we have a long history of pouring our lives out during previous pandemics including the famed efforts of the earliest Christians when the plague emerged in both the second and third century Roman Empire.

We will pour our lives out, even if it costs us our lives, but we need help. Desperate help.

Find out more and donate to Dignity Freedom Network’s emergency Covid-19 appeal: dfn.org.uk/covid-19-emergency-appeal.

*Bishop and moderator of the Good Shepherd Church of India. Dr D’Souza is also the founder and international president of Dignity Freedom Network, an inter-caste and inter-racial alliance that works on behalf of the Dalits and other marginalised groups. He also leads the ecumenical All India Christian Council

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