'Utterly devastating', says head of Bible Society India

M. Mani Chacko is the General Secretary of Bible Society India (BSI). He gives Eternity readers an update on the BSI team and provides a snapshot of what life is like in the midst of such devastation.

Every day, life is “utterly devastating”, says Chacko, who is based in Bangalore, India.

With his nation swamped by more than 22.3 million cases of COVID-19, Chacko gets news each day that close relations, colleagues or other friends have been infected.

The chance of being infected within Bangalore – a city of 12.7 million in the southern state of Karnataka – is 40 per cent, according to local news source NDTV. Doctors in a government hospital there report having only one bed available to every 30 sick patients needing it, and only two doctors to care for 170 patients.

Across India every day, around 4000 people are dying of the disease, with the total death toll at more than 242,000 to date. One million people are expected to die of COVID in India by August 1, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

What is daily life like for staff at Bible Society India at the moment?

Utterly devastating, with news of several loved ones, colleagues, church leaders passing away and several being infected with COVID-19. This happens very often, on a daily basis.

How many BSI staff have contracted COVID-19? 

Twelve of our colleagues or their parents have passed away. A number of more cases are being reported, off and on, that they are infected.

Are you able to continue work at Bible Society or is the focus solely on survival at the moment?

Continuing the work at the Bible Society of India (BSI) is indeed very challenging, as our income has been drastically low ever since the pandemic began as there are no voluntary contributions, no Scripture sales, no Bible Sundays, since almost all churches are closed due to the pandemic. We are struggling to make ends meet. All our staff, almost 325 of them, solely depend on salaries they get from BSI. So, we are trying our best to at least pay the salaries on time.

What are some of the most pressing needs among your local community now?

Fear has gripped people and many have been traumatised. Several have lost their jobs as companies are forced to work with limited numbers of staff. Besides the passing away of relatives, there is not enough medical infrastructure available for immediate treatment. It’s a daily sight to see people running from hospital to hospital for a bed with oxygen and ventilator support. It is also heartbreaking to see dead bodies lined up for cremation due to lack of enough crematoriums and burial grounds.

Above all, the people who suffer from COVID-19 infection are stigmatised and people intentionally try to keep away from them even after recovery as if they are untouchables! In view of the above, words of comfort in the form of tracts and booklets, New Testaments and if possible the entire Bible, along with groceries, vegetables and some form of financial assistance to meet the medical treatment expenses will be helpful. The treatment has become very expensive, and our staff and others find it difficult to meet [the cost]. Bible Society of India very much wants to accompany them in their grief and pain.

What specifically can our readers be praying for BSI and for India as a nation?

  • Pray that the federal government and the state governments would go out of their way to make medical facilities available for the suffering masses at affordable rates;
  • Pray that people also realise the seriousness of the virus and take needed precautions to safeguard themselves and others;
  • Pray that God would have mercy on the suffering humanity despite all our inadequacies, and protect us from this deadly virus.

Bible Society Australia is running an appeal for people in India affected by COVID-19. Donations will help provide biblical resources and necessities like medicine, oxygen and food through Christian hospitals. For more about this campaign or to donate visit biblesociety.org.au/india.