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Churches in northeast India offer quarantine facilities

Almost 100 churches in Mizoram are ready to house returnees to the Christian-majority state

Churches in northeast India offer quarantine facilities

A municipal worker sprays disinfectant in an alley where a patient had tested positive for the coronavirus in Siliguri on May 18 during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the spread of Covid-19. (Photo: AFP)

Church institutions in Mizoram, a Christian-majority state in Northeast India, have agreed to offer their facilities to the state government for use as quarantine centers.

An official of the state government confirmed that it had asked churches to provide their halls to serve as quarantine centers for people returning from outside the state as there is a shortage of quarantine facilities in Mizoram.

“We are more than willing to help the state and our people as it is the collective responsibility of all of us including the government to come together at this difficult time. The Church is always at the forefront in social work through its social wing,” Bishop Stephen Rotluanga of Aizawl told UCA News.

“Our diocese through its social action wing has already helped more than 5,000 people with food and other daily staples during the lockdown. We stand with other denominations to help all and do whatever we can.

“There is no problem as such as we are already active in the social action field, but some logistical details have to be worked out with the government regarding what kind of facilities it wants because many of our halls are interconnected. It’s just a question of sorting out the logistics, but we are ready with the facilities.”

The bishop said 96 churches from different denominations in Mizoram have come forward and are lending their halls to serve as quarantine facilities.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said various denominations have agreed to the requisitioning of halls to accommodate returnees.  Of these, 75 belong to the Presbyterian Church, 15 to the Baptist Church of Mizoram and six to the Salvation Army.

The Presbyterian Church has also lent its synod conference hall and revival camp at Durtlang for quarantine purposes.

The official said 884 people stranded in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry had returned to the state and more than 10,000 people are waiting do so.

Some churches are also providing food as well as free Wi-Fi to those in quarantine, adding that there are 182 designated quarantine facilities in the state.

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C. Lalramliana, secretary of Aizawl Venghnuai Presbyterian Church, said it was happy to extend help. “It is a question of humanity at this time of crisis and we wholeheartedly give our church hall.”

Mizoram, sandwiched between Bangladesh and Myanmar, is one of India's only three Christian-majority states. Christians form close to 90 percent of the state's 1.1 million people. Some 8 percent are Buddhists, with Hindus accounting for the remainder.

The population contrasts with the national average of 80 percent Hindus and 2.3 percent Christians. In Meghalaya and Nagaland, also in the Northeast, Christians represent almost 90 percent of the population.

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