Many church leaders and other Christians have lost their lives to Covid (image is illustrative)
Covid-19 continues to have a devastating impact in India – while Christians are also facing persecution from Hindu extremists, which hasn’t slowed down during the pandemic. These believers are struck down not once but twice.
Sabita*, a local Open Doors partner, answered some questions about the current situation – and how you can be praying for Indians impacted.
The official number of daily infections is about 20,000 now, which is relatively low compared to previous numbers – last month the numbers were over 400,000 cases per day. The death rate has also decreased accordingly, thankfully. But the situation is still very bad.
As the pandemic got worse last month, people were searching for medicines, oxygen tanks (as oxygen was also scarce) and state hospitals (as there were no beds anywhere). Costs in the private hospitals were unaffordable – despite this, they were also full. During these times, medicines were also limited and were being sold at exceptionally high prices on the black market. Many people died at home. It was one of the darkest times in India.
The situation is better now because the Covid cases have reduced, but the medicines and other facilities are still reduced in several places. Hospitals are still underequipped and medical facilities are limited.
We also do not know if it will get worse again, as the number of people who have received both doses of the vaccines are very low. Only 3.5 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated. The vaccines available are limited and the government vaccination centres are flooded with people – you must wait in a long line to get a vaccination done.
Covid restrictions have been quite strict since April 2021. This has caused increased unemployment. The situation of poor people has worsened. These restrictions have affected their livelihood, especially the Christians who were already struggling for their living because of discrimination and social boycotting. Things are now being relaxed slowly – lockdowns have not been totally lifted everywhere, but some restrictions are being lifted in states where the situation has improved.
The Christian community, which is mostly a financially poor group, continues to suffer. They face the same challenges as everyone else because of Covid, but also face discrimination because of their faith and often are working as migrant workers with no local ID, which creates complications for them to secure government benefits like food and medical aid.
Christians in many places had so many issues getting hospital treatment – firstly, they are poor and often from the Dalit caste and could not afford better treatment, and secondly some Christians were denied treatment in local hospitals.
\""Many Christian families were infected with Covid-19, and many lost family members.\"" - SABITA
We have lost several pastors, church leaders and partners in the field over the last two months. Now the situation is getting better, but even now we keep receiving prayer requests for Christian leaders who have been affected, and some are critical.
Many Christian families were infected with Covid-19, and many lost family members who were the main earners – as well as the trauma they have suffered in all this. The impact this time was much worse compared to last year, as so many church leaders were affected and several of them died.
Church leaders’ income sources had already been greatly affected as the churches are shut down, and whatever income they had from tithes and offerings has also stopped. We receive lots of requests for prayer and support from pastors who are sick due to Covid and other ailments and are desperately in need of financial support – they have nowhere else to go.
Several workers employed in Christian organisations are not getting paid a salary as many Christian organisations are being closed down – based on false allegations of forced conversion. Anti-conversion laws are increasingly being abused to target Christians in this way. Lies and propaganda are used to fuel anti-Christian hatred.
Thank you. Please keep praying for us in India. We really need your prayers.
Pray for the Covid-19 situation in India and for those who are ill. Pray that things get better, and that the virus does not come back again in a more dangerous form. Pray for the health infrastructure of the country and those making decisions about the response to the pandemic – and for the doctors and nurses, especially the ones in the Christian hospitals, that God will give them strength to do their best and not get disheartened by the death and despair they see around them.
Pray for the church leaders whose income is impacted as churches have closed down and there are no offerings. Ask God to provide for them, and for the families of those who’ve died and who no longer have a breadwinner. Pray that people whose livelihoods have been affected will be able to find a new income source. Pray that God will provide them with all their needs.
Pray for the Open Doors partners who are trying to provide help to the persecuted Christians despite the pandemic. Pray that they are not falsely accused of converting people and that they are able to work freely. And, finally, pray that God keeps His people safe from Covid, especially the ones involved in providing relief aid to those in need.
*Name changed for security reasons
Lord, we join with Sabita in asking You to protect India at this difficult time. Please lay Your healing hand on the nation and the people suffering there. We particularly ask You to strengthen and protect the church in India, facing two crises – and to give wisdom and equipping to Open Doors partners serving persecuted believers in the country.