Taking tea with a J
Last week Fr Denzil joined Jesuit Missions supporters for a webinar, and gave us a unique insight into the impact of Covid-19 on his work in Goa, India.
Dr. Denzil Fernandes SJ is part of the Goa Jesuit Province and is currently the Executive Director of Indian Social Institute, New Delhi, a Jesuit social research institute in India. On 10 June, 2020, he was conferred the Delhi Minorities Commission Human Rights Award 2019 for his work on human, civil and minority rights in India.
Impact on India’s poorest
Fr Denzil started with a chronology of India’s experience with Covid-19 so far. Starting with the first case in Kerala at the end of January, Fr Denzil talked about the impact of the lockdown, which was introduced with 4 hours notice. He called it a ‘failed lockdown’ noting that they had to ‘unlock’ before the peak and cases continue to rise.
We heard about the impact of India’s lockdown on the country’s poorest. Unemployment has risen sharply from 7% to 24%. In addition, 50 million migrant workers have been stranded away from their homes and without entitlement to local rations. Fr Denzil said, “What people need, the migrants and the poor, they need food to survive. Many say they will die from hunger, not from Covid-19.”
The Jesuit’s response
In response, the Jesuit Conference of South Asia has taken action, setting up a Jesuit Resource and Response Hub. They are working hard running community kitchens, providing psychosocial support, producing low cost sanitised, and helping the communities they serve in many more ways. They have branched out into new ways of carrying out their ministry. Their recent webinar series on the current issues migrants are facing attracted over 1,500 subscribers from 23 countries. Their online retreat surpassed their own expectations, drawing in an impressive 8,000 retreatants. As a result of their efforts, they are meeting the immediate and spiritual needs of a significant number of marginalised people when they are most in need.
Towards the end of the webinar Fr Denzil reflected, “I think this whole experience of Covid-19 and the lockdown is a time for all of us to pause and reflect on the way we are conducting ourselves. To ask ourselves, have we stood by the marginalised groups? We have been trying to mitigate their sufferings in new ways.”
You can donate to out Coronavirus Appeal here.
Photo credit: Fr Denzil