By Fr Lalit Tirkey SJ
I hope and pray God almighty has kept you all under the wings of his protection.
I would like to say that we Jesuits in Darjeeling Province are constantly praying for the people of North America and Europe as we see that not only have their been many people affected, but a considerable number have also lost their lives; many health workers in the frontlines have succumbed to the disease while trying to save others.
The pandemic has created havoc in the lives of both the poor and rich alike. It has also made everyone sit back and reflect on the power of science /technology and religion versus this invisible enemy. Many people have come to the frontlines to battle this disease and to save lives while others are quietly working to protect the livelihood of those most affected and distressed.
We at North Bengal St Xavier’s College, which I now head after moving out of the Social Centre, are not greatly affected since we are already in isolation. However, I would like to briefly share how we are trying to reach out to many poor people badly affected by the loss of their livelihood and some in the verge of losing their lives, not from the coronavirus but from hunger!
One morning, a widow came to our residence with three of her children, girls aged 4 to 8 yrs, begging for some food as they had gone hungry for almost three days. It was then that we six Jesuits (including 3 who are doing their undergraduate studies) swung into action, and decided to go out to nearby villages for relief work, throwing caution to the wind. In the absence of staff and other workers, we had to do most of the purchasing and packaging after requisite permission from the local authorities.
I, as the Principal/Secretary of the College, also appealed to our own staff and students, who came forward after they saw our photos distributing food grains to the needy. Thankfully, people are coming forward with small contributions and we have been able to supply food grains to more than 600 households. It is still just a drop in the ocean, yet a small step.
During this time I also felt very frustrated by the many hurdles we had to overcome to serve those in need. I have managed to persevere but now that about 3 million migrant workers (close to 2 hundred thousand tea workers from closed tea gardens) have been allowed to travel, we are predicting a massive surge in people who are starving and who are without work and money, not to mention the fear that they may be carriers of this virus.
So, as we try to conduct online classes for our students (again poor students can’t access this!), we are also keeping our eyes open to see where and who are most needy and distressed so we can reach out and help.
God bless you all,
– Fr Lalit Tirkey SJ
St Xavier’s College