Christian missionaries in Madhya Pradesh reach out to tribal villages to spread awareness about COVID-19

Published 23 April 2020  |  
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Catholic missionaries in Jabalpur Diocese are travelling long distances to reach out to tribal people living in remote villages in Madhya Pradesh and spread awareness about COVID-19.

Around 45 priests and 150 volunteers are on a mission to visit Gond and Baiga tribal communities who have not even heard about the novel coronavirus that has taken 184,643 lives worldwide.

Father Thankachan Jose, a parish priest in the diocese, confirmed that the visits to these villages are made "with proper written permission from government officials, including police, to avoid any confusion."

The lockdown that has forced the entire nation to stay at home has also cut off the tribal villagers, who are already living in isolation, from mainstream life, leaving them with little or no awareness about the virus.

Tribal villagers usually lack basic supplies like food and water. Father Jose believes that with the onset of summer, their situation is going to worsen.

"Water shortage is a big problem for many. They depend on the forest for food, and the summer also creates a food shortage, making their life miserable," said the Christian leader.

As part of the campaign, Father Jose had visited as many as 100 families from the Gond and Baiga tribal communities.

According to the priest, no one knew anything about COVID-19 as they have no access to television, radio or newspapers, and as most of them are illiterate.

Father Jose spoke to them and educated them about the virus and told them to main social distancing.

He advised them to not to follow their customary welcome ceremony of washing guests feet until the threat of Covid-19 infections is completely over, for which the tribal villagers agreed.

He also encouraged the villagers to cover their nose and mouth using a towel as they have no masks.

Gulzar Singh Markam, a prominent Gond tribal leader, told UCA news that Father Jose's campaign has given the villagers a proper idea about the infection and the protection they need to take during the outbreak.

"The missionaries are doing a great service to avert a tragedy," Markam said.

"We are happy that in these difficult times the Christian missionaries showed the courage to step out and teach us ways to protect us against the virus."

"They were earlier accused of conversion. But now, when no one is willing to go near to each other, the Christians have once again shown their love for human welfare," Markam added.

Like Father Jose, many priests in Jabalpur are running awareness campaigns in more than 50 mission stations to visit tribal villagers and spread awareness about COVID-19.

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