India: Solidarity in times of trial

From the sharing of material goods to offering spiritual and emotional support, all efforts seem a drop in the ocean of the Covid-19 tragedy in India. Yet local communities continue to go ahead with faith in God and mutual trust.

“It has been exactly one week since we tested positive. We are not looking up any information on the Internet and we are not allowing ourselves to watch the news or complain about anything. We are taking it one day at a time. Getting better. Your prayers, messages, good wishes and food full of warmth have continued to give us strength and we can feel the closeness and support of each and every one of you. We continue to offer thanks for the smallest blessings we have been given.”

This WhatsApp message shared by a family from the Focolare community in Mumbai has been a ray of hope and courage in these dark times. Not a day goes by without receiving news of the death of colleagues, friends and sometimes even family members. This is in addition to the constant reminders through all the media of collapsing systems and families unable to assure dignity for their sick or deceased loved ones.

With a population of 1.3 billion people, a high rate of cases was expected in India. For a whole year, until last April, the country managed to curb the spread through various measures, from strict lockdowns to contact tracing and mass vaccinations. But now the situation is worsening daily, as the virus mutates in various parts of the country and the public health system struggles to keep up with an unprecedented demand for medicines, oxygen and ventilators.

During the pandemic, the Focolare community has worked tirelessly and relaunched a nationwide communion of goods to show solidarity and offer financial help to those who have lost their jobs or need funds for daily provisions. The Focolare’s Udisha project in India has been able to reach out to nearly 80 families in some of Mumbai’s low-income communities, providing them with food, medicine, school fees, books, house rent, electricity bills, etc. Amidst the raging second wave, some young people continue their work for the #DaretoCare project by serving home-cooked meals to the homeless once a fortnight.

With the aim of saving lives, much of the effort and energy of the Focolare communities is now focused on health care. When an urgent request came from the Holy Family Hospital in Mumbai for oxygen concentrators for their 160-bed Covid ward, the community quickly found sponsors for two machines and is now looking for more.

As the second wave continues to hammer home its full force, the Focolare families have felt the need to support each other more closely and have begun to connect daily to pray together for half an hour, finding much needed support in the pain, helplessness and even loneliness of some. As in the early days of the Movement, when the community in Trent (Italy) discovered that God is Love even in the raging of the Second World War, online prayer with the Indian community is becoming a powerful way of expressing their being one family, all equal and united in God’s love.

Annabel Dsouza from Mumbai, India

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