Most religions consider service a core tenet of their faith. They can learn to draw upon a common spiritual heritage to face collective challenges and to reject religious prejudices.
The catastrophic unfolding of the pandemic appears to be the worst-case scenario that many feared. The infections have engulfed the country so fast that overwhelmed hospitals are unbearably full; medicine is running out; supplies of lifesaving oxygen are running low and morgues have run out of space.
There aren’t enough ambulances to carry the sick to hospitals that are too full to take themanyway, nor are there enough vans to carry the dead. There aren’t even enough graveyards, or enough wood to burn the necessary pyres. Even wealthy Indians, who bought their way to healthier and prosperous lives, are clutching their pearls as their loved ones appear extremely vulnerable. The situation has become so dire that it verges on the apocalyptic.
But hope still shines in this dark tragedy as faith groups have risen to the occasion with their cadres defying threats to their own safety.In the face of the pandemic, they have spontaneously collaborated to organize humanitarian work.Besides lending out their places of worship for hospitals or quarantine centers,religious volunteers deliver food, medicine and other vital supplies to those recovering at home.They are also working to construct makeshift hospitals and health centers.
In and around Mumbai, the nonprofit Red Crescent Society of India has, with the help of mosques, been booking, storing and refilling oxygen cylinders.The Jamaat-e Islami Hind (JIH) and its student wing, the Students Islamic Organisation (SIO), have launched a countrywide network – ‘Covid Relief Task Force’. It is operating a 24-hour help line to connect patients across India with oxygen and plasma resources. A Nagpur entrepreneur arranged over 20 oxygen tankers for the city at his own expense as the city grappled with shortages of the life-saving gas. For Pyare Khan, the best zakat or charity during the month of Ramzan was to help the pandemic-ravaged city get oxygen. Sikhs are encouraged to donate 10% of their income to charity. Langar is a very pivotal aspect of Sikh religion. The Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahaib, located in New Delhi’s main centre, has provided 400 beds equipped with oxygen. In Ghaziabad, the local gurdwara has arranged an “oxygen langar”, where patients can drive in and be placed on oxygen support until they stabilize or find a hospital bed.
The coronavirus provides a testament to the oneness and inter-connectedness of the human family. This crisis has a profound message: The collective well-being depends on us showing solidarity with and compassion towards one another. Several religious charities, transcending their own faiths, arehelping under-resourced communities in accessing treatment, oxygen, oximeters, thermometers, protective gear, and vaccination and regain livelihoods.
Most religions consider service a core tenet of their faith. They can learn to draw upon a common spiritual heritage to face collective challenges and to reject religious prejudices.To be religious is to be an active servant of humankind here and now, to use one’s abilities to contribute to the well-being of all without distinction. This is a moral imperative. Every person is precious. We have a moral obligation to every compatriot. No greater embodiments of this spirit of selfless and sacrificial service can be found than those doctors, health workers, policemen and government staff who, at great risk to their personal lives, are carrying out their duties.
Averting their gaze from the tragedies surrounding them, living in their own bubbles, so many religious, political and wealth leaders shrugged their moral responsibilities in times of challenge. We built the system that is failing us. Most failures, like most successes, are collaborative efforts, involving both the actions people take and the signs they ignore. Perhaps the COVID-19 crisis will teach us, that our decisions to stay silent as others suffer have consequences. No one is safe until everyone is.