A special Prayer Service in Sydney’s west has been told of family suffering in India and an appeal has been launched as the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic escalates.

India is averaging 350,000 new cases of Coronavirus every day, with a record 18 million cases in total and approaching 250,000 deaths - the worst on record for any country. 

In the capital, New Delhi, a person dies from COVID-19 every four minutes.

The only thing we can do is hope and pray. When it is your own family, it is not just another statistic.

The Archbishop of Sydney’s Anglican Aid has responded to the crisis, launching an appeal to support the work of Herbertpur Christian Hospital in the COVID hotspot of Uttarakhand, North India. 

The Herbertpur Hospital has been asked by the Indian Government to take care of COVID-19 patients, which currently number about 1 in every 200 people in Uttarakhand state.

The Christian hospital, which treats anyone regardless of race, caste, or religion, has access to only 30 oxygen beds and is urgently seeking to increase this number to 50. It is the only COVID-19 hospital available to a population of 2 million people.

“We are facing big challenges due to the overload. Hospitals need equipment like ventilators, monitors, PPE kits, food for patients,” said a hospital spokesman. “There is a big shortage of oxygen and medicine and life-saving equipment. Most of the COVID hospitals are full with people.” 

India’s second wave of COVID has caused a collapse of the health system, with  people being forced to sleep on beds by the roadside while waiting for hospital space.

You can support the appeal online at the Anglican Aid website.

Prayer service at Parramatta

Members of the congregation and the Indian community of Parramatta gathered at St John’s Cathedral in the centre of Parramatta to pray for loved ones in India and the entire nation as it grapples with the crisis. (See the prayers here.)

The Consul General of India, Manish Gupta as well as Dr Geoffrey Lee, Minister for Multiculturalism in New South Wales Parliament attended the service.

“It's such a noble gesture of solidarity and compassion,” Mr Gupta said as he thanked the congregation for attending the prayer service.  “India is going through very tough, challenging times. This is unprecedented in India's history. The pandemic has extracted a heavy toll but the nature of pandemic is such that even the families are finding it difficult to give those who have left us, a proper farewell. These are very very difficult times for the country.”

Mr Gupta said Indians had seen “a tremendous outpouring of public support.”

Mr Ould speaks with the Indian Consul-General

St John’s Senior Assistant Minister, the Rev David Ould, who led the service, said there had been messages from Indian organisations and community members who were grateful for the gathering.

The personal suffering was brought home by one of St John’s Growth Group leaders, Michael Jackson. “My parents and my brother-in-law were both infected with the COVID virus,” Mr Jackson told the congregation. “In addition to them there were a number of extended family members, church family and friends. We have lost a few. We have with lost ministers from the church as well.”

“Everyone else who has family far away will share the same sentiment, it is difficult not being there. The only thing we can do is hope and pray. When it is your own family, it is not just another statistic.” 

Main photo: The COVID ward at Herbertpur Christian Hospital in North India 

Inset Photo: Courtesy Simon Hall

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