To tackle the pandemic of the Corona virus, the Church in India is doing what it can to provide relief for millions of poor people affected. Across India, various dioceses are offering help in every capacity possible.
In the Northern Region, the Jalandhar Diocese has offered all of its institutions within the state for emergency healthcare. Bishop Angelo Gracias, the apostolic administrator of the Diocese, wrote a letter to Chief Minister, Amrinder Singh, expressing the willingness to convert 140 Catholics schools in the Diocese into quarantine centres for Covid-19 patients. Diocesan priest, Fr. Xavier Thazathuveettil, said that the schools can accommodate 25,000 people, if converted. Bishop Gracias directed all parish priests to provide food and help to migrant labourers who have lost work or are stranded during the lockdown.
In the Southern Region, the Church in Kerala has offered its vast network of healthcare institutions and staff to the state government to fight the corona virus. The Church in Kerala runs around 249 hospitals inclusive of three medical colleges. Cardinal Alencherry, in a statement, said he made the offer because "we have to be at the service of society to tide over this crisis." The Church also suggested setting up special medical teams to create awareness. The Health Department of Kerala has approached the Church seeking its student hostels and other facilities to convert them into quarantine homes. The Chief Minister Vijayan expressed his appreciation of the Church’s offer via social media.
In Hyderabad, Fr Mathew Abraham, C.Ss.R, the President of CCHI and Director-General of the Christian Health Association of India (CHAI) offered resources to collaborate with the Government of India to fight the pandemic. In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, CHAI offered all of its Christian hospitals across India for Corona virus treatments. The Christian Coalition for Health in India (CCHI), one of the largest healthcare systems in the country, has over 1,000 hospitals and more than 60,000 beds across the country.
Responding to the increasing number of persons affected by the illness, an online platform ‘coronacare.life’ was launched by Dr Sr Victoria along with Rev. Dr Mathew Abraham, the President and the Director General of Catholic Health Association of India (CHAI) in association with Project Vision. The platform is specially designed to assist people experiencing high levels of stressed because of the Corona virus situation, to talk to qualified persons. Project Vision, a Claretian social mission, based in Bangalore, coordinated with various national networks in India to bring together the required professionals willing to provide voluntary services. All logistical requirements were coordinated within ten days, as Billion Lives worked on developing the platform.
The Diocese of Mysore, led by Mysuru Bishop, Most Rev (Dr.) K A William, is catering food to over 3000 poor people on a daily basis guided by the Mysore City Corporation. Mother’s Caterers, helping with this venture, is providing food at Rs 15 per person.
In Bangalore, the Archdiocese of Bangalore under the leadership of Most Rev. Dr. Peter Machado, Archbishop of Bangalore, in association with Fr. Edward Thomas’ Dream Indian Network and other priests, has consolidated an action plan to care for the affected people. Archbishop Machado has exhorted and called on all Catholic and Christian hospitals, doctors and nurses to reach out and to take care of the sick, especially those affected by the Corona virus. The Prelate also requested hospital administration to set apart, either a block or a section, with as many beds as possible to cope the increasing number of cases.
To accommodate migrants and those stranded in Bangalore, temporary shelter homes are set up at St. Philomena’s School, Railway Colony, St. Joseph’s School, Briand Square, Mysore Road, St. Xavier’s School, Shivajinagara, Lourdes School, Cubbonpete and Lourdes Schools, Halasuru.
In the North East, Assam Christian Forum has launched ‘Operation Reach-Out’, to help families by supplying required essential survival rations. The Ranchi diocese, in Jharkhand, has opened a shelter and 13 other structures to accommodate the poor, migrants and workers along with their families stranded in the district of Muri, on the border of West Bengal. The Diocese has appealed to the Church in India to help migrants from Jharkhand stranded in other states.
In the Western Region, in Maharashtra, the Archdiocese of Bombay, under the leadership of Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, has set up a Crisis Management Team to swiftly analyse and respond to the changing scenario on a daily basis. The Cardinal has also appealed to all Churches within the Archdiocese, not to terminate any staff and ensure that salaries are paid, even if they do not work during the lockdown.
The Centre for Social Action, through its network of partner organisations across Raigad, Thane and Mumbai, is reaching out to over 3000 households and more than 10,000 beneficiaries, with essential supplies. The beneficiaries include tribal, migrant, elderly, transgenders, rag-pickers and other vulnerable persons in Borivali, Dombivali, Dongri, Gorai, Kalyan, Karjat, Khopoli, Kolad, Mahad, Mahim, Malad East, Malwani, Manori, Murbad Road, Pali Chowk, Panvel, Pen, Roha, Tala, Thane, Uttan and Versova. Churches in the Diocese have started outreach programs to help those affected. St Michael’s Church, Mahim has distributed more than 250 food packets every day to the senior citizens, migrants and daily wage workers at 6 centres. Our Lady of Mercy Church, Pokhran, in association with the Thane District Collector, Thane Municipal Corporation and other organizations has initiated a campaign through which daily wage workers, rag pickers, temporary sanitary workers and Adivasis are given cooked food and essentials. Good Shepherd Church, Andheri West, formed a support team to volunteer at a relief camp for migrants being run in the locality. Rosary Church, Dockyard started a relief camp for foreign tourists stranded in the city. This was established in collaboration with the Home Guards. In Korlai, a town situated in the Raigad district, the parish has supplied more than 470 hampers containing supplies and essentials to more than 235 beneficiary families.
The Archdiocese of Bhopal has distributed provisions for cooking to daily wage labourers. The Diocese of Ajmer is helping over 200 people by proving essential items while the Varanasi diocese has distributed food provision packets at several places within its region.
The Church in India continues to serve humanity regardless of caste, creed or religion, and work towards overcoming this pandemic together.