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The Coronavirus Diaries: 'The Least We Can Do'

The Coronavirus Diaries: 'The Least We Can Do'

Wednesday July 22 2020

The Rev Graham McGeoch is a Church of Scotland minister. He teaches Theology & Religious Studies at Faculdade Unida de Vitoria, Brazil.

Sadly, the news reports about Brazil are true.

Covid-19 has ripped through the population, infecting millions and killing tens of thousands. Unnecessarily so. At the start of the pandemic in Brazil, it was described as a ‘middle class’ illness, with cases concentrated amongst people returning from overseas on work or holiday. Not now. Covid-19 has a foothold in urban peripheries (favelas). Moreover, it is wiping out indigenous tribes in the Amazon.

The pandemic arrived in Brazil during a political crisis. Brazil’s young democracy is teetering under pressure from populist militias and an extreme right-wing President. The government has lost two health ministers during the pandemic, both for trying to roll out a public health response contrary to the President’s wishes. He had dismissed the pandemic as a ‘media myth’, before himself contracting Covid-19 after continually flouting WHO guidelines. The democratically elected government is increasingly dominated by Presidential hand-picked military officers. It is a combustible mix for a country that only emerged from a military dictatorship in 1985.

I teach theology at Faculdade Unida de Vitoria. Since March, all our teaching has been online. This has proved a huge challenge. The majority of our students are poor, female and black. This is now precisely the demographic most at risk from Covid-19 and its effects. Many of our students have been infected and a number of their family members have died. In reality, it has been more important for us to offer pastoral support than academic study during these exceptional times.

Our course coordinators recently held a series of consultations with our students about the stresses and strains from Covid-19, and social distancing measures. The number one effect highlighted by our students is loss of family income, subsequent socioeconomic pressure and new domestic arrangements. Women are the first to suffer this Covid-19 reality, leaving their studies to care for and support their families.

At UNIDA, we want to find a way to work through this. We believe in education that transforms lives in a country that is violent and violently unjust. We launched a scholarship fund to help keep young Afro-Brazilian women in education, avoiding the disproportionate effects of Covid-19 and interrupting their studies. The aim is to ensure that young Afro-Brazilian women can complete the semester, supported fully by UNIDA. It is the least we can do in these exceptional times in Brazil.

The Coronavirus Diaries: Updates from Church of Scotland partners around the world

Kenya: Caring for One Another in Christ
India: A Time of Enrichment
Argentina: Time in Between
Malawi: 'My identity in Christ remains unchanged'
Jerusalem: Being Rather than Doing
Malawi: No Lockdown and an Election
Zambia: 'I will never leave you... or forsake you'
Czech Republic: The Covid Cover-up
Zambia: 'All Life is Sacred'
Israel/Palestine: 'The Air is Clear'
Nepal: 'Please Pray for Us'
Malawi: Tough Dilemmas
Italy: 'Together, We Will Get Through It'