In the context of COVID -19 everyone is affected, be they rich or poor. All have suffered without daily essentials. But in such disastrous times, people with disabilities and elderly people are the most vulnerable. These two sectors are mostly either dependent on their families or are daily wage earners themselves. During the pandemic they and their families have lost their employment and these disabled friends are considered an additional burden.
People with disabilities in our area are already socially isolated. They have been further isolated due to this COVID-19 pandemic, having been cautioned to stay at home since they are most vulnerable to viral infection. They often do not have the resources for a single meal, or their families lack enough food to share with all their family members.
In this context food is needed urgently to avoid the deaths of people with disabilities. The Madurai District Administration approached several volunteer organizations to serve and to attend to people in need. The Center for Promoting Peace and Inclusion (CPPI), a volunteer organization, received several phone calls from people with disabilities for food assistance. Considering the intensity of the issue, CPPI mobilized a few food packets and supplied them to people with disabilities and their families. Everyone had a heart to support this cause, but none of them had money or food to contribute.
CPPI approached the leadership of the Institute on Theology and Disability to share this need among their network, which includes Anabaptist Disabilities Network. Considering the gravity of the need, Anabaptist Disability Network (ADN) gave a one-time grant of $2000 to supply food for one hundred people with disabilities and their families.
On May 6, 2020, the food was distributed to the doorsteps of people with disabilities and their families in different villages in Madurai and Sivagangai Districts. This was also used as an opportunity to create awareness of the necessity of using of masks, washing hands, and physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Mrs. Chellamma expressed her gratitude saying, “If we would not have received this support, we could have lost some members of our family.”
Mrs. Karupayee said, “Thanks for supplying such excellent quality food.”
Mr. Subramanian told us, “I have not received any help from anyone until now, but this lockdown forced me to receive help. After a week of hunger, I had a stomach full of food. Thanks to the people who are behind this support.”
People with disabilities, their parents and siblings feel unwanted in their neighborhoods. There is still stigma, despite all the inclusion awareness polices and programs that have been implemented. However, there are a few groups that are working towards just and inclusive communities at a grassroots level.
Liberation theologians have understood God in Jesus as a vulnerable co-sufferer with those who are oppressed. Jesus lived among the people. He died as one of us and one among us. He shared our joys and sorrows and claimed no divine or earthly privileges. When people feasted, Jesus feasted; when they went hungry, Jesus went hungry. Jesus’ lifestyle appears simple but he did his Gospel work publicly, affirming that he was with the people and their needs, especially those who are marginalized, neglected and rejected.
We are still under COVID-19 lock-down. For most of us it is stressful and painful. But for people with disabilities in India it is a life and death matter, not only because of the risk of contracting COVID-19 but because of poverty and an inability to meet the most basic of needs.
God calls us to receive and uphold one another is all relationships of life including employment, housing, education, leisure, marriage, family, church, and social standing. Christians are expected to help create just and inclusive communities, caring for the needs of all people.
Rev. R. Christopher Rajkumar serves as director for the Centre for Promoting Peace and Inclusion in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India, email@example.com.