Those who have been following the weekly lockdown diary from Canon Vinay Samuel from Divya Shanthi Christian Community Services in Bangalore India (this week’s below) may be interested in a special online celebration of Divya Shanthi’s work, with video and photos from Bangalore, plus songs and prayers, which will take place today (Friday 24 July) at 12 noon (in the UK) / 4.30pm (in Bangalore) on the website of St Nicholas Marston: This is Divya Shanthi’s founder’s day, an opportunity to thank God for the vision of Colleen Samuel and to pray for the work of an organisation, which has brought so much hope to vulnerable people living in Bangalore. The whole video will remain on Facebook to watch after the event, and it will also be uploaded onto the St Nicholas Church Marston’s YouTube Channel.

A Covid-19 spike in Bangalore sparks concern

THE INDIAN Medical Association has announced that community transmission is widespread in India. The steep increase in positive cases last week in Bangalore and our State confirms that and deepens the gloom and grimness that is reflected in the newspapers and news channels. The stories of a serious shortage of beds in hospitals show not just the elderly, but even children dying due to bed unavailability.

The 55-year-old mother of one of our staff showed symptoms of a chest infection last Tuesday. She was taken in our ambulance for treatment. The Baptist Hospital examined her, suggested hospital admission but had no beds. From 7pm to 2:30 am she was turned away from six hospitals, as they also had no available beds. She was finally admitted into a private hospital on the city outskirts.

We have seen the best of human compassion with medical staff serving long hours in dangerous conditions. Authorities state that 93 hospital doctors have died from Covid infection so far in India.

We are also seeing the worst of human nature. Ventilators and other medical equipment are being procured by State hospitals at three to four times the regular market price. The generic version of Remdesivir, used widely in India to treat Covid patients, disappeared from the market as soon as the government capped its price at £55 a dose. Patients are given six doses. It is easily available on the shadow market for £600 to £1,200 per dose. Such heinous and scandalous behaviour is very dispiriting. A few arrests of drug peddlers does not change the situation.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bangalore has highlighted the serious problem of burials of Christian dead.Two to three Christians are dying of Covid each day in Bangalore.An estimated 800,000 Christians live in the City.Christian cemeteries, all from colonial times, have no space. As they are now situated in residential areas, the cemeteries face opposition from residents who think every death is a Covid death and prevent burials. Families of Christians who died of Covid are reluctantly and sadly cremating their loved ones. Indian Christians usually do not cremate their dead.

Continuing Ministry

We have resumed distributing food packets with a month’s provision of rice, lentils, cooking oil, sugar and cash for fresh vegetables. We have started with 150 families with the generous support of Barnabas Fund UK. We have also started a morning vegetarian meal for 75 homeless people funded by the government and distributed by the local Hindu temple. We provide an evening non-vegetarian meal as requested by them.

School online classes have begun this week. We plan to launch a programme by mid-August for training teachers in teaching and preparing online study materials. This will be in collaboration with the Rotary Club of Bangalore Cantonment.

I was part of the group that started the club in 1984 and helped them to set up a computer centre for use by students from low-income families in Bangalore East as a joint project with our Diocese. We will be working with about 100 teachers from six private schools who work with children from low-income families. Dr Ruth Samuel D’Monte based in Oxford will lead the training team and will draw on experienced Christian teachers in Oxford. We believe online school education is the emerging area where Christians can once again make pioneering contributions.Most members of our Rotary club studied in Christian schools and value the contribution of Christians to education in India.

Our programme team is getting used to remote working and online ministry. Only last week I realised that out of 32 schoolteachers only two had either a laptop or desktop at home. Among the rest of the 55 programme staff only one has a laptop at home. I am ashamed that the technology needs of my colleagues were invisible to me. With support from friends in St Nicholas Church, Marston, Oxford,our long-term partners in mission,we are beginning to rectify this.

There is hunger for more Bible study. Now that people are getting used to using Zoom we have started daily Zoom Bible studies and a number of young people take part enthusiastically.