In Pakistan, many poor Christians and members of religious minorities continued to be denied food assistance and basic needs during Covid-19.
June 2, 2020
By Robin Gomes
Some Muslim charities and mosques have denied food aid and emergency equipment to Christians and members of minority communities.
Cecil Shane Chaudhry, executive director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan (PCBC), made a look at international Catholic charities and foundations, Assistance for Churches in Need (ACN).
Discrimination against Christians
Chaudhry believes that with Covid-19, all people are at risk regardless of their religion. Therefore, it is unfair for Christians and other minorities to be denied emergency assistance, especially when they are among the hardest hit.
The NCJP executive director urged the Pakistani government to target assistance to the most vulnerable and provide masks, gloves and other protective equipment for health and domestic workers.
In the latest count, nearly 66,500 cases of Covid-19 infection have been reported in Pakistan, with nearly 1,400 deaths. According to Chaudhry, many cases were not reported.
ACN approved a grant for Pakistan
ACN International’s executive president, Thomas Heine-Geldern lamented that “even during this global crisis, such minorities were clearly disadvantaged,” in Pakistan. ACN has taken action to provide Covid-19 food and other emergency assistance to more than 5,000 of the poorest families in Pakistan. On May 28, it approved a grant targeting the most vulnerable in the capital, Islamabad, as well as in Rawalpindi, and the Diocese of Lahore and Faisalabad.
Heine-Geldern observed that Christians were among the poorest and hardest hit by locking in Pakistan. He said the state of emergency had “usurped their already small livelihoods and forced them to live through the crisis in conditions that were very narrow and overcrowded with minimum resources.”
He said many Christians get the lowest wages, work as day laborers, housemaids, janitors or kitchen staff. “All of these occupations,” he said, “are the ones most affected by economic closure.”
“Many Christian employees have been fired unannounced by families who have worked for them for years.” The ACN Executive President said these entrepreneurs were worried that poor people could bring infections to their homes.
Awareness creation, PPE, mass benefits
In Faisalabad, the ACN emergency assistance program includes the use of radio and social media to increase awareness of the risk of coronaviruses and ways to protect it. ACN has planned to distribute face masks to the faithful in the churches and equip priests, nuns, catechists, diocesan staff and volunteers with personal protective equipment.
As part of the COVID-19 program for Pakistan, ACN provided pocket money for 70 priests in the Lahore Archdiocese, four priests at the Mater Redemptoris Main Seminary, Karachi, and four other priests at the St. Francis Xavier Seminary, Lahore.
ACN announced an emergency fund of COVID-19 € 5 million in April. Recently approved a grant that provides emergency assistance to more than 20,000 families in Syria.–Vatican News
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