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These [COVID-19] figures and projections are appalling and scary, but they don’t tell the full story. They can’t explain what it is like to be in a situation where every day brings you the news of the death of somebody you know, somebody you love, somebody you just talked to a few days ago.
- Fr Fernando Franco SJ
Jesuit Province of Gujarat (India)
Last April 26, we heard the sad news that Fr Mangal Kerketta SJ, a young Jesuit in Darjeeling, India died of COVID-19. He was a teacher at St Alphonsus School and pastor at St Paul's Parish. He was popular, cheerful and full of energy. He also loved his work, knew all the students, parents and parishioners by name. COVID-19 literally took his breath away - he died from lack of oxygen.
COVID-19 has brought great suffering to the people of India: nearly 400,000 infected and over 3,500 dead each day. Our Jesuit partners write to us about the devastating impacts they have seen and experienced: on the children they teach, in the many schools they run; on their parishioners who knock on their doors looking for help and a place to stay since the hospitals are full; on the homeless who are looking for food and shelter; and on their own communities, with deaths and illnesses.
Yet, in the midst of all this tragedy, we have also witnessed many acts of self-sacrifice and generosity among people. In Darjeeling, India, the staff and nurses at Jesu Ashram continue to minister and care for those suffering from leprosy, HIV/AIDS and other diseases, including COVID-19. Our Jesuit partners continue to accompany marginalized people even at great risk to their own health and safety.
Relief efforts are being coordinated by the Conference of Jesuit Provincials of South Asia, the Indian Social Institute, Lok Manch and Jesuit Provinces with whom CJI has long-standing partnerships, such as the Darjeeling Jesuit Province. Listed below are some of the initiatives being rolled out by Jesuits in multiple states in India including Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, West Bengal (Darjeeling) as well as others:
Since the start of the pandemic, we have supported emergency aid projects in Eastern Africa, India, Liberia, Central America, Haiti, Brazil, and Zambia. Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity. Without your help, none of this would have been possible.
The urgency and magnitude of the need remains enormous. In India, there is a severe shortage of medical equipment, hygiene items and basic food provisions.
May I ask you once again for your support? Our partners in India are counting on us.
With gratitude I wish you and your loved ones much strength and health for the coming months.