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Religions join to fight spreading pandemic in Myanmar

Each Myanmar dioceses collects some US$3,800 for the national contingency fund to help the poor

John Zaw, Mandalay

John Zaw, Mandalay

Published: October 23, 2020 09:59 AM GMT

Updated: October 23, 2020 12:21 PM GMT

 Religions join to fight spreading pandemic in Myanmar

This photo, taken on October 17, 2020, shows volunteers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) sitting inside an ambulance as they prepare to transfer local residents suspected of having the COVID-19 coronavirus to a quarantine centre in Yangon. (Ye Aung Thu / AFP)

Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and Hindu in Myanmar have stepped up, extending a helping hand as the Southeast Asian nation struggles with the second wave of Covid-19.

Interfaith leaders are busy mobilizing young volunteers for government-run hospitals and quarantine centers. They also arrange for religious buildings to be used as quarantine facilities.

Religious organizations assist poor and vulnerable families with food, non-food items, and Covid-19 personal protective equipment for hospitals.
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A mosque in Yangon, Myanmar's commercial center, has arranged food boxes daily to be sent to quarantine centers since mid-September with funding from private donors, and a Muslim aid association has continued providing food items to the needy.

A Hindu community in Yangon provides needy families with rice bags and other food items.

Young Buddhist volunteers and social organizations help bring people suspected of infection to quarantine facilities and burying the dead.

The Catholic bishops have appealed to parishes to share their resources with at least 50 poor families in every parish of Myanmar's 16 dioceses.

The bishops and Karuna (Caritas) Myanmar plans to help another 5,000 families nationwide.

Each of the 16 dioceses is requested to send 5,000,000 Kyats( US$3,816 ) as contributions for the national contingency funds to be used for the most needed.

"These are challenging times. We are sure Bishops and leaders of religious organizations will activate the spirit of generosity and compassion in our people to reach out to those in need," Catholic Bishops'
Conference Coordinating Committee for COVID Response said in a letter released on Oct.20.

Myanmar is facing a rising number of cases since mid-August with Yangon reporting at least 1,000 new cases daily. All city suburbs are under a stay-at-home order.

As of Oct. 21, Myanmar reported 39,696 confirmed cases of Covid-19, including 972 deaths and 18,865 recoveries, according to health officials.

According to the latest data, more than 1,131,528 people have died out of more than 41 million people infected worldwide.

Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon lauded the response of volunteers from all religions, in this Buddhist majority nation, as an act of "great heroism."

"We stand together, reaching out to all others. The Covid did not discriminate in infecting people. Religions and races should not discriminate in saving people," the 72-year-old prelate said in a homily on Oct. 18.

The impact of the pandemic threatens to partially reverse Myanmar's progress in lifting millions out of poverty, according to a World Bank report.

The poor are especially exposed to the effects of Covid-19 due to job insecurity in the informal economy, low levels of savings, and no resources to purchase protective equipment or medicine, reports say.

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