Indian government gives medical supplies to Hindus over Christians

“This is effectively religious persecution and we should be naming it” says Tim Costello

It has been so distressing to receive messages from close friends in India over recent weeks. They are in grief and we are in grief for them and feel their helpless desperation.

They tell stories of loved ones who have died gasping and writhing like fish out of water because they could not get oxygen or in some cases, even a hospital bed. This wave of death numbering 4,000 a day is apocalyptic and the number of burning bodies in funeral pyres is testament to the Indian variant B.1.617 that is so deadly in its speed of transmission. And now this variant is in many other nations including Australia.

Irresponsible government politicians have suggested cow dung and urine is a protection from infection and our television screens have shown scenes of poo-smattered bodies believing this is a vaccine. Others have called it fake news to even report that there is a lack of oxygen and taken to regulating social media to suppress the crisis.

But my friends who communicate on the smartphone app called ‘WhatsApp’ have learned to fear the ping it sounds to signal receiving a new message, knowing it will likely announce another death and further tragedy.

They have see with their own eyes what is unfolding and how their government either has no clue or doesn’t care.

After Prime Minister Modi had boasted that India’s initial response had been so good that they had ‘saved humanity’ he became utterly complacent. He ran massive political rallies with maskless millions. He was the face to encourage Hindu religious festivals on the Ganges with more than 10 million attendees.

This political irresponsibility has become fatal.

Under Indian Prime Minister Modi, aid has become politicised.

Australia has found an extra $37 million for India is in its budget announced in May. This is welcome although aid is still decreasing overall, even as the pandemic rages and our economy roars back. Sadly, Australia remains in the bottom three of the 29 OECD nations when it comes to aid generosity.

My Christian Indian friends welcome our help, but insist that Australia demands greater transparency on how that aid money is used. Under PM Modi, aid has become politicised and goes to those states where his Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power. This health crisis has revealed a religious crisis – one where a government that should be secular and impartial in service delivery is waging its Hindutva agenda, namely, that to be Indian is to be Hindu. Christians and other religious minorities are being victimised.

Many of the churches have become Intensive Care Unit centres, buying oxygen from wherever they can on the market and offering it to the desperate regardless of their religious background. Mosques have been doing the same. But Christian hospitals, who are required to go through the health purchasing system, are often missing out on government allocations. This is religiously motivated.

India, which has a nuclear program, a space program and extraordinary wealth, has spent less than 2 per cent of its Gross National Income on public health. And now in this pandemic is prioritising assistance to BJP Hindu states.

This is effectively religious persecution and we should be naming it and standing with our brothers and sisters. Where churches in Australia can help buy oxygen, we (Micah Australia) can give you the names of Indian Christian hospitals where they are caring for those missing out. We believe that when dealing with the health of another human – any human – we are dealing with an image of God.

In India it is beds, oxygen, ventilators, testing and tracing that are in short supply. It is also the desperation of 9,000 Australian citizens or permanent residents caught in India who want to come home. It is the anxiety of 660,000 Indian Australians here receiving calls from desperate families and friends pleading for help.

Elsewhere it is the world’s poorest nations who have received just 1.3 per cent of the global vaccine supply. Nations like Kenya and Namibia are rightly calling this vaccine apartheid. COVAX, the international mechanism was meant to deliver 2 billion doses to the poorest nations, has so far has only delivered 54 million.

The Christian church, born as the first internationalist or transnationalistic body because everyone human carries the image of God, must help show the way.