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The experience of Orthodox missionary service during a pandemic

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Priest Clement (India)

My name is Clement Nehamaiyah, I am the rector of the Live-Creating Holy Trinity Church, in Chandrapur city of India. I will not speak much because our mission is very small and we had very limited ability to do anything during the Covid quarantine period, therefore, this might be the shortest speech of all the participants. In India we had only one day voluntary self imposed quarantine on 24th March. From 25 March official nationwide curfew was imposed till June. Since it was not a voluntary self-quarantine but a government imposed curfew, getting out of the house was an offense and police used to beat people severely. Temples of all religions were closed down. Only priests were allowed to conduct worship behind closed doors. This meant that all our people, in my region or in other cities had no opportunity to take part in the services. Even in most critical situations, priests were not allowed to visit the sick and give them last Eucharist. And if someone dies from Covid, their bodies were cremated by the government and the Roman Catholic cardinal of Mumbai supported this action and implemented it in his diocese. By the mercy of God, none of our Orthodox believers were infected by Covid. But many people who went to work in other cities were stuck there for 2 months because of countrywide curfew. I was most worried for the community of the Moscow Patriarchate in India, as I am the only priest, which means that I can’t meet the spiritual needs of the faithful in case of emergency. All transport systems were closed during the curfew and trains are still not operating today. Every shop was closed except pharmacies and grocery stores. Since all industries were shut down and all work places were closed, a crisis of migrant workers who moved to other states for livelihood arose. Now they had no work, no home and no food. They wanted to go back to their native states but transport was closed and millions of workers, with their families, with little children walked hundreds of miles to reach their homes. All this happened during summer which begins in March and ends in June, and temperature is about 45-50° c. Many people died on the way. Government was doing its best to help but during such a crisis all attempt fell short and different organizations came forward to help people, among them was our mission. We distributed groceries and hygiene products worth more than 100 thousand rupees, to more than 500 people in 4 different cities of India. This was the only work permitted to carry out during curfew. We helped those of our very poor believers who fell sick during this time, by sending them money for their treatment. In short, we could not go out to serve any services or see someone in person, the only things that were possible to do during this critical time was to pray and help people by distributing groceries and money for treatment. While all Christian denominations, at least in my region, completely stopped their services, we were blessed to continue divine services with my family in our house Church. All temples are still closed till next announcement of the government. While I am recoding this video we are still under quarantine implemented by the city authorities till 1st October.

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