Impact from the Coronavirus is felt in every nation, and while there are many legitimate concerns in our own society about basic supplies, healthcare and the longer-term economic impact upon individuals and business, these concerns are massively escalated in a less prosperous nation. Many of the problems reported by the media about life in India are replicated in neighbouring Sri Lanka.
Because a significant number of people are daily wage earners who purchase food from day to day, many have no way of ‘stocking up’. Shelves and fridges are not full of food; most people do not have a fridge.
As in the UK there is a shutdown, including all but essential travel, though in Sri Lanka the shutdown is far more reaching. Food shops are closed with only healthcare and other essential services maintained. This absolute curfew is to be maintained for three days, after which it will be lifted for six hours, followed by a further three-day shut down. Only during these six hours will the shops be permitted to open. The phenomenon of standing in an orderly queue while waiting to be served is quite unknown in Sri Lanka. The anticipated melee is just the scenario where the virus could quickly spread.
To make matters worse, it is reported that a Charismatic Pastor in a neighbouring district returned from a visit to Europe, and rather than self-isolate as would have been prudent, organised a public rally (this was before the curfew). The rally promised dramatic healings, with prayer and blessings sufficient to make people immune from coronavirus. Tragically, the pastor had unwittingly contracted the virus abroad, and now many are fearful that it has spread. Inevitably this has an impact upon how the church is viewed in this Hindu society, with some of Pastor Parthee’s neighbours even asking his landlord if he was wise to continue renting his property to Parthee.
But when doors are shut God can open them. Parthee has been able, through various personal contacts, to purchase sufficient supplies to provide each needy family in the congregation with a basic food parcel: rice, flour, sugar, onions, dry fish and lentils.
You might wonder how, with the strict curfew, Parthee has been able to collect the provisions from the suppliers and then deliver them to each family. Again the Lord opened a door. A few days ago, as the situation was escalating, Parthee purchased facemasks, which he went around his district distributing to the local policemen. “You”, he said, “have to work hard keeping everyone else safe, but who will take care of you? Please wear this mask.” The consequence is that Parthee is now saluted, rather than stopped, on the otherwise deserted streets.
The Church immediately, through its Home & Foreign Missions Committee, sent an emergency payment to pay for these vital basic supplies. However the greatest need is that we unite in prayer, bringing before God not only our own felt needs, but also the needs of other nations. And particularly that he would preserve and prosper his own church through this time. Please pray for Rev. Partheepan and the congregation in Vavuniya and Mullaitheevu.