In the Age of COVID-19 Bangladesh needs a Transfusion of Love
As the COVID-19 emergency has unfolded disturbing footage has emerged across social media of the sick, dead, and dying being abandoned, sometimes in the streets. People with the illness have been shunned and ostracised, family members attached with stones and driven out of their community and others abused claiming that they have the disease because they are cursed by God. With the Coronavirus, the simple truth is that anyone can catch it and that anyone can spread it. What matters now is our response to the Pandemic. Firstly, it is important that we behave rationally and proportionately. Of course there is a lot of fear and anxiety around, that is to be expected, and thus it is important that there is widespread public education, designed to explain risks and the simple measures that can be taken to reduce risk and the spread of the infection. Similarly, sensible precautions need to be taken and systems put in place to monitor and tackle outbreaks. The last thing society needs is an outbreak of wild hysteria, we must remain vigilant and stay calm.
Naturally, individual faith remains a great comfort to many thousands, indeed millions of people. No one disputes the value of religious devotion, but as ever with faith, a living and dynamic faith requires that we care for others, especially those less fortunate than ourselves. It is no good us giving to religious charities or buildings if we do not allow faith to shine forth in our lives in our care and compassion for others. COVID-19 has left entire families in desperate need, sometimes not even in a position to bury their loved ones. Currently, there is dreadful hardship with breadwinners unable to work and families enduring fearful privations that include malnutrition. If we have a religious faith and are sincere in our belief we cannot and must not ignore the plight of those that suffer. Each of us can make a difference and galvanise others to join with us in alleviating the hardships of others. We each need to look into our hearts and ask what more can we do for those in our local community as well as those further afield? We would do well to ask what our religious communities are doing to lift others up and to save and enrich lives. The danger is that we allow our religion to be mere public show and ritual, something that ultimately impoverishes us spiritually.
So how can we help? Sometimes it is by providing food, helping with schooling or medical costs, some of us are able to offer employment opportunities, to help with travel and transportation or help with funeral and burial costs. Sometimes it is a question of reaching out and offering practical support, for others it is ensuring that the appropriate authorities, religious organisations, charities, and NGOs are aware of individual need. We can each be the eyes and ears, ever vigilant for those that might need our help in these challenging times. We must all strive to ensure that for all the current difficulties there is no compassion fatigue. Whatever our position we can help someone, be it through our concern, our practical help or through our connections. True faith lives in our words and deeds and when we set to things with a prayerful and positive spirit great things can be achieved.
None of us must look extremely far to find gloomy stories at this time. There is considerable misery that should move us all to act. There is no need for us to make a great show of our actions, let us reach out quietly, sensitively and in a spirit of kindness and love. This time of COVID19 is testing each one of us. We need to rise to the challenge and through our humanity prove that this disease will not divide and defeat us. Bangladesh is no stranger to difficulties, but we know that when communities and the country pulls together remarkable things can happen.
We all must work to ensure that ours is a living and compassionate faith, free from judgement and driven by a desire to make the world a fairer, more equal and kinder place. Our actions and words can be transformative, they can give others hope and even lift them up. We need to actively look for opportunities to make a difference, both for those known to us, as well as to strangers. Human kindness turns strangers into friends, and in this troubled world we all would do well to play our part.
Equally, the Government and municipalities must show that they care, and go above and beyond to provide practical help and support. Much good has been done to date, but so much more can and should be achieved. As this article is being read some people are going hungry, others need clean drinking water and others without even rudimentary shelter. How can we sleep soundly in our beds in the knowledge that there are those without the essentials of life? The very least that we can do is lobby for change and do what we can to provide help and hope. The effects of the Coronavirus are going to be with us for some time, rather than allowing a climate of fear and mistrust to take hold, we must find new ways to connect, to reach out and assist one another. Bangladesh needs a transfusion of love at this time, let us each give what we can and where possible, more.
The Writer is Executive Chair, Centre for Business & Economic Research (CBER), UK