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Religion, politics put aside as Kerala fights Covid-19

Pandemic has helped people overcome barriers of caste, community and religion and think of global humanity

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Updated: April 14, 2020 03:18 AM GMT
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Religion, politics put aside as Kerala fights Covid-19

Medical staff collect samples from people at a new walk-in sample kiosk (WISK) to test for the coronavirus at Ernakulam Medical College in Kerala on April 6. (Photo: Arun Chandrabose/AFP)

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People in most parts of Kerala in southern India have dropped their differences of religion and politics to come together to ward off the spread of Covid-19 infections and help the needy poor.

Hindus, Christians and Muslims, cutting across party ideologies, work with officials of the state’s communist-led government in managing community kitchens to provide food for the needy and in running state campaigns on pandemic preventive measures.

Kannur district in northern Kerala remains an example of such activities, with some 37,000 members of Tellicherry Archdiocese becoming part of the district’s "Break the Chain" campaign.

The campaign stresses social distancing, washing hands regularly and other such measures to arrest the spread of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 disease.

“We have joined the district administration because it is a social need,” said Father Benny Nirappel, who heads the social service wing of Tellicherry Archdiocese.

India had recorded more than 9,000 cases and at least 308 deaths from Covid-19 by April 13. Globally, the pandemic has killed more than 114,000 people from about 1.85 million positive cases.

Although Kerala has reported only 230 cases and two deaths, the federal government has asked all 29 Indian states to be vigilant to ward off spreading the virus to communities. 

“It is high time that we all need to join hands to curb the coronavirus outbreak which continues to claim lives in our country,” Father Nirappel told UCA News.

The priest has asked all archdiocesan social service members to use their social media platforms to spread the message of the Break the Chain campaign.

“We installed water tanks and sanitizers at Kannur district headquarters to encourage the public to be part of the campaign,” the priest added.

The church-run non-governmental group, which has members from all religious communities, has also donated 13,000 masks to government staff and police officers working to implement the 21-day national lockdown until April 15.

Father Nirappel said volunteers work with the district administration and other non-governmental groups to fight the virus.

Najma Hashim, vice-chairwoman of Thalassery Municipality, told UCA News that “we are a team. Government employees, police and volunteers work together,” she said. 

“It is a humanitarian crisis, and there are no religious, caste and other differences. We are working for a one-point agenda — defeat the coronavirus and save all,” Hashim said.

“Currently, we are ensuring that no one goes hungry in our locality,” she noted, referring to the need to feed thousands of daily wage workers and migrants who were left without food and money after the sudden lockdown started on March 24.

The shutdown of all public activities and transport left millions of migrant labors stranded and many jobless across Indian cities and towns, forcing voluntary agencies to find food for the poor and accommodation for the stranded.

“Our collective efforts help us face this challenge,” said E.P. Mercy, an additional district magistrate who coordinates activities in Kannur district. “The challenges are many, but we manage everything together.” 

Northern Kerala, particularly Kannur district, is considered a bastion of the Communist Party of India and has a history of violence and political murders. The communists and rival hardcore Hindu groups often clash on the streets in a struggle for dominance, killing some 300 people in the last five decades.

But infection “has united the people of all walks of life, overcoming barriers such as caste, community and religion, among others,” P.M. Rajiv, who coordinates Kannur district’s cleanliness mission, told UCA News.

“Now everyone feels part of the global effort to help humanity,” he added.

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