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Pakistanis receiving food aid at a distribution point. Pakistanis receiving food aid at a distribution point.   (AFP or licensors)

Covid-19: Christians in Bangladesh, Pakistan ease people’s hardship

While the Catholic Church in Bangladesh has launched a special fund to help those hit by the Covid-19 lockdown, a Christian in Pakistan is distributing free food to the needy.

By Robin Gomes

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB) Bangladesh has launched a special fund to help alleviate the suffering of Catholics affected by the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bangladesh Church

CBCB president, Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario of Dhaka said that “current situation could worsen in the coming days, as a result, many people in our community will suffer from lack of food, medicine and other means of subsistence,”

“The most affected people will be children, the sick and the elderly, day labourers, the migrant community in the city of Dhaka and those who do not have a permanent job but depend on daily work for livelihood. Many will suffer from hunger and may even die,” said the cardinal in a letter to the Vatican’s Fides news agency. 

Cardinal D'Rozario has asked parish priests, superiors, headmasters and heads of Christian institutions and organizations, individual faithful, and other potential donors to contribute to the special fund called "Corona Charity Fund".

He said parish priests, with the help of Saint Vincent de Paul Society and the Pastoral Councils, are identifying the poorest and most destitute families needing financial and medical support.

“It is our Christian responsibility,” he said, “to respond to this difficult situation through our sincere prayer, sacrifices and financial support."

The Corona Charity Fund has been able to provide 650 Catholic families in Dhaka Archdiocese with 3,000 Bangladeshi Taka (approximately $35) to buy food.  They plan to reach 1,500 families.   

On Thursday, the total numbers of Covid-19 cases so far in Bangladesh stood at 4,186 with 127 deaths.   The government is thinking of extending the lockdown to May 5. 

Raja Walter of Pakistan 

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, a Christian food shop owner has launched a humanitarian initiative to feed the needy who are suffering from the consequences of the lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Raja Walter, a Christian from Youhanabad, a predominantly Christian district of Lahore, feeds nearly 300 needy people every day. 

His charity that is open to all, irrespective of faith or ethnic origin, was prompted by some alleged cases of discrimination against members of the Christian minority community who were denied food aid at charity queues. 

According to Raja, "love for humanity must prevail in Pakistan". 

The nationwide lockdown imposed by the Pakistani government on April 1 to fight the spread of the virus, has been extended to the end of the month.

This situation has interrupted much of the economic activity in the country, compounding the problem of malnutrition already affecting many Pakistanis.

A man with a big heart, Raja isn’t a big restaurant owner.  He runs a small food point having good skills in making burgers. He is famous for making delicious burgers and his customers always appreciate him.  The son of a catechist also owns a small grocery store in that area.

Hearing about the initiative, Father. Francis Nadeem, the executive secretary of the National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism (NCIDE) of Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference (PCBC), led a delegation on Holy Saturday to Youhanabad, to see and talk to Raja. 

The Capuchin priest was joined by Sahibzada Muhammad Asim Makhdoom, chairman of the board of Kul Masalik Ulema and Allama Asghar Arif Chishti.

Shanila Ruth, member of the National Assembly for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Justice Movement) party of Prime Minister Imran Khan, also visited Raja and commended his humanitarian initiative.

While hailing Raja as "a fine example of social and interreligious harmony", Father Nadeem joined him in inviting Pakistani Muslims to put themselves at the service of all those in need without discrimination.

A brother of Raja who works in Sweden has been helping him and is encouraging him to continue the initiative until the emergency is over.   

23 April 2020, 15:29