India's church ministers ask for prayer as country battles second wave

(Photo: BBC News)

As India records record deaths and Covid-19 cases, church ministers in the country are asking for prayer. 

On Saturday, India became the first country in the world to record over 400,000 new cases in one day. A day later, the health ministry said a record 3,689 people had died within the past 24 hours.

Ministers from Church of Scotland partner churches in India are asking for prayer as India struggles to cope with the staggering numbers of infected. 

Rev Moumita Biswas, who is based in Calcutta and part of the Church of North India, said that the country had become "a valley of death".

The present crisis is affecting her personally, having lost four of her relatives and a number of "close" colleagues to Covid. 

"We have been in a terrible state for the past two and a half weeks," she said.

"We are in a death-trap now, it has become a valley of death. Before this wave hit we just knew the numbers but now it's our family members, our relatives, our church leaders who have died."

She continued, "Every Indian has someone or other in their family who has been affected.

"We need support of food, which churches have been helping to provide. And, of course, prayers.

"Sharing our pain is a process of catharsis and helps to feel like we aren't alone and that our brothers and sisters are with us, which means a lot.

"The greatest thing we have is prayers for each other. The other thing is to reflect your prayer into action – increase your awareness of what is happening in India, what is happening in Brazil. What has happened here can be a lesson for countries around the world."

The Most Rev Dr PK Samantaroy, Bishop of Amritsar, has also lost friends, collleagues and family members to Covid.

He said that poor healthcare infrastructure and low vaccine supplies are hampering efforts to tackle the crisis. 

"Medical facilities in India, especially in the larger cities, have been under severe strain from the flood of patients and the new more virulent variants of the virus," he said.

"Though the government is encouraging people to be vaccinated, many health centres have run out of vaccines for the second dose.

"There is lack of adequate infrastructure and medical experts in relation to the high number of potential patients needing intensive care.

"There is a severe shortage of hospital beds and oxygen supplies. Not only has this resulted in innumerable deaths, but is also creating conditions for rioting and violence." 

The bishop said he had been encouraged by the many emails and messages of support from Christians around the world. 

"At this time of national distress, we would appreciate your prayers. We believe that God is in control and through God's intervention, normalcy will return," he said. 

Churches in India are doing what they can to help in the crisis by providing food, masks, hygiene supplies and oxygen. 

The Church of Scotland is sending a £5,000 emergency grant to the Church of South India to help them in their work. 

The Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, convener of the Church of Scotland's Faith Impact Forum, said: "The numbers infected and dying in India are staggering. Those numbers become all the more tragic when they are given names and faces, as well as life stories.

"These are parents and brothers and sisters and children. For us in the Church of Scotland they are also long-term partners and friends; many of whom are trying their hardest to bring comfort and help to their communities.

"As elsewhere, it is the poorest who are suffering most. Our hearts go out to the Churches of North and South India in particular and we encourage people if they can, to donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal."

The Church of Scotland has produced this prayer for India: 

The skies which cover Scotland
Are the same skies which crown India.
Under the one sun
We are one in God's Son.
The pain of loss and grief
that sees tears flowing through that land,
we pray will be met by the love and compassion
of fellow human beings worldwide.
Creator God,
All are your people.
Help us to share your love
through grace-filled generosity
And through heartfelt prayers
Directed to you, whose tears mingle with those of your people.
Help us, we pray,
To hold out our hands
And to open our hearts
And to do so in the name of Jesus Christ
And for his sake. Amen