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The Coronavirus Diaries: Love Your Neighbours

The Coronavirus Diaries: Love Your Neighbours

Wednesday April 28 2021

The Rev Moumita Biswas reports from India, which is struggling with a devastating second wave - but sees God's love in gestures from over the border in Pakistan.

For the last two weeks India has been grappling with a devastating second wave of the Coronavirus. Every morning I get up with tears, as I mourn the death of friends, colleagues and loved ones.  Whenever my phone rings I fear that may be news of the death of a loved one.

India is breaking world records for new coronavirus cases, this week surpassing 352,991 new cases on April 26, and deaths in that 24 hours jumped to a record 2,812 in a day as reported by the health ministry. And there are the unreported statistics. The sudden spike in cases has brought the nation's healthcare system to its knees. Hospital beds are not available, there is not enough supply of Coronavirus medicines,  oxygen supplies are dwindling and physicians watch helplessly as patients perish from preventable deaths. Vaccines are also running short. Overwhelmed crematoria are working round-the-clock to keep up with the pace of bodies; furnaces have melted down from overuse and additional funeral platforms are being built outside.

There are certain reasons which spiked up the spread of the disease. Despite the fact that new variants were identified as far back as January 2021, the media report that the Indian National government has totally ignored the warnings. Election rallies and political campaign gatherings have contributed to the record resurgence of the new coronavirus. Political leaders greeted hundreds of thousands of mostly maskless supporters at election rallies putting at risk the lives of the common people participating in them.

Crowded religious festivals like Kumbh Mela further aggravated the situation. Hundreds of thousands of ascetics and devout Hindus were gathered along the banks of the Ganges in the northern state of Uttarakhand after a mass dip during a religious festival on Wednesday, hoping to wash away their sins. Hundreds have tested positive. In many parts of the country churches also opened up and congregations were gathering in large numbers. Easter rallies were organised and hundreds gathered.

The Government’s emphasis on opening up schools for those appearing Board examinations in some states led to spread of virus among teachers and students. Thousands of Indian farmers, protesting in Delhi over three new agricultural laws that they say threaten their livelihoods, have vowed to continue with their around-the-clock sit-ins despite a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in the country.  

‘Love your Neighbours as You Love Yourself’ (Matthew 22:39)

It seems we are in the valley of death and there is no way out. However, though India and Pakistan have been in conflict since independence in 1947, during this crisis Pakistani citizens want to help India. As India grapples with an oxygen crisis in its Covid hospitals, Pakistani citizens urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to help India with oxygen supply as the matter gained prominence on Twitter.  Hashtags like #IndianLivesMatter and #IndiaNeedsOxygen began to trend on Twitter in Pakistan. Prayers and compassionate messages continue to pour in.

Messages from Pakistani brothers and sisters like “I request our government of Pakistan to extend hands to help the people of India in this difficult time. Put our political differences aside”, touch our hearts. Edhi Foundation in Pakistan, that leads one of the largest charitable ambulance networks, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to offer a fleet of 50 ambulances to help Indians tide over the Covid-19 crisis. However, the Indian government has not responded yet. 

Last year, we created a network ‘Food Speaks Herstory of Love & Hope’ to support South Asian women leaders to comfort each other in grief, strategise to end gender based violence and promote food security. In the past week, ecumenical women church leaders from Pakistan are calling Indian sisters to comfort one another through prayers and to give hope to each other.

In the midst of our chaos and pain, God’s love is visible through these acts of love and kindness revealed by our neighbours.

The Rev Moumita Biswas, Church of North India, South Asian Women Ecumenical Leader, Executive Committee Member of World Day of Prayer International Committee

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

A Nigerian in Scotland: Alone But Not Lonely
Taiwan: When We Work Together, We Achieve the Best Results
Hungary: We Mourn Each Loss
Zambia: Preparing for the Vaccine, and a Third Wave
World Communion of Reformed Churches: The 'Covid and Beyond' Church
Pakistan: Passing the Light
Lebanon: The Lord Will Not Forsake Us
South Korea: 'It is Time For Christians to Hear the Marginalised'
Cuba: Keep Moving On
Canada: Cracks Have Been Exposed
Kenya: Leave No Child Behind
USA: Homes of Prayer
Mozambique: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
A Spaniard in Scotland: The Power of Movement
South Sudan: Being Positive
A Nigerian in Scotland: God is in Charge
Trinidad and Tobago: New Frontiers
Czech Republic: A Challenge for Everybody
Switzerland: An Outpouring of Solidarity and Creativity
The West Bank: A Landscape of Broken Dreams
Nepal: So Many Premature Goodbyes
Malawi: We Must Hold Each Other Close
Nigeria: A Fresh Spiritual Connectedness
Egypt: 'This Is A Time To Witness God'
Guyana: The Strength of our Connectedness
South Korea: A Harsh Reality
Zimbabwe: Convenience or a Wake-up Call?
Sri Lanka: Service is the Highest Form of Worship
USA: Testing Positive
Portugal: The Mission of the Church Has Not Changed
World Council of Churches: A New Dawn is Upon us
Hungary: Physically Distant but Close in Spirit
A German in Scotland: Something New Has Already Begun
Myanmar: We Will Overcome this Hardship
Ghana: This Too Shall Pass
Brazil: The Least We Can Do
Kenya: Caring for One Another in Christ
An Indian in Germany: 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'