A quarter of the world’s population is living under some form of lockdown and the number of global cases of Covid-19 has exceeded 650,000 (at the time of writing).
Rich countries are pouring their resources into battling the invisible foe and to help their citizens survive the lockdown. But what about countries whose health systems barely function at the best of times? Countries that cannot hope to provide salaries for those who suddenly have no work? Or places where people live crowded together in refugee camps without adequate sanitation? What about Christians where they are despised and discriminated against?
With God’s help and your donations, Barnabas Fund has stepped in to help our brothers and sisters in need due to coronavirus. Here are some examples.
In poor countries like Armenia, impoverished elderly Christians, now obliged to self-isolate, are begging their churches for bread and other basic foodstuffs. Young people from the churches were ready and willing to deliver food parcels to the elderly, but the churches lacked funding to buy the foodstuffs.
Barnabas provided emergency food for vulnerable, elderly Christians in Armenia. Among those receiving the monthly help were Artashes and his wife Manik. Faithful servants of the Lord, the couple had allowed their home to be used as a secret meeting place for Christians during the years of persecution of Christians in the Soviet era. Since 1995, Artashes has been serving as a church deacon. Now, despite bodily weakness and failing memory, the couple continue to trust God’s promises that He will not forget His servants.
Laos is a country of severe anti-Christian persecution, where poor rural Christians are often penalised for their Christian faith by being banished from the fields where they grow their food. Barnabas Fund is providing rice, noodles, canned fish and salt for some of the poorest families, now forced to stay at home. Widows and orphans are among the beneficiaries.
Many Christians in Sri Lanka are daily labourers in tea plantations and other areas of agriculture. Already poor, they are extra vulnerable when there is a socio-economic crisis. Although the government has been trying to ensure that production continues, church leaders in touch with the grassroots have told Barnabas Fund that survival is a huge struggle for these believers. Barnabas is working through the Sri Lankan churches to provide the neediest families with rice, lentils, chickpeas, flour, potatoes, “soya meat”, coconut oil, powdered milk, sugar and salt.
There is a similar situation in Pakistan, where many Christians are also on daily wages; if they are not hired, they have no income that day. During lockdown, those not involved in essential services have no possibility of working. Because they earn so little even when they do get work, the daily labourers have no savings to fall back on and lockdown affects them very seriously. Christians in Pakistan typically do the most menial and lowest paid jobs. They are “often the poorest of the poor,” says our project partner.
“They are looking to God and their brothers and sisters in Christ to stand with them in the face of the troubles coronavirus has brought into their life”
Prime Minister Imran Khan at first announced that Pakistan could not afford a lockdown because the government had no resources to support the poor who would starve if they could not work. But then lockdown became essential to stop the spread of Covid-19. The army had to be called in to enforce it, as poor people were so desperate.
Aslam and his wife Suria are both daily wage earners in Pakistan. Due to the Covid-19 lockdown, Aslam can no longer work as a labourer and Suria can no longer work in domestic houses. They have four daughters to support and no savings. “They are looking to God and their brothers and sisters in Christ to stand with them in the face of the troubles coronavirus has brought into their life,” says our project partner in Pakistan. Barnabas is helping to feed them and other needy Pakistani Christian families.
At the height of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, courageous Christians put the care of their neighbours above their own safety to help others in need. They risked their own health to hand out protective masks, gloves and hygiene supplies to desperate people on the streets of the quarantined city.
As supplies ran short, Barnabas supporters answered an urgent call for help to support the supply of essential hygiene items to help protect these caring Christians, and those they were helping, as they ministered to the needy on the street.
We also responded to pleas from Uganda to provide soap, ethanol wipes and face masks for South Sudanese Christians in refugee camps where shared washing facilities make the problem of keeping hands clean a big challenge.
Pakistani pastor Saul Rehmat’s church members are mostly rickshaw drivers, labourers, factory workers and domestic helpers. When the coronavirus lockdown started they lost their work, so they can no longer support their pastor. Their offerings were Pastor Saul’s main source of income, which leaves him and his family in a desperate situation. But Barnabas Fund is now providing monthly food parcels for him and other pastors in Pakistan facing a similar situation.
In countries like Kenya, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Pakistan, the income of a pastor, especially in rural areas, is from the donations of his congregation on Sundays or when making pastoral visits. But when there is a lockdown, Christians cannot gather for worship, and pastors cannot visit homes. In any case, church members have nothing to give. The pastors and their families are in desperate need, but Barnabas Fund is supporting them.
We have also been supporting poor preachers who live in remote mountainous parts of various provinces of China. Some have been infected and others have suffered in different ways because of the coronavirus outbreak.