Hunger will kill us, not the virus

Charles Dickens pictures life in London and Paris before the French revolution as follows: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.” (Tale of Two Cities)

This is a winter of despair

The times we are living in is like no other in history. This is the winter of despair. Anxiety and fear permeate society.  We are facing the unknown. We are bombarded with guidelines: wash hands, cover when sneezing, don’t touch your face, keep your distance, stay at home, be informed. This still doesn’t take away the uneasiness most of us are feeling. We are surrounded by something we cannot see. We are encircled by people who could infect us with a virus that has already taken too many lives globally.

People here in Uganda’s capital Kampala are confronted with myths and ignorance. Last week two people joyfully announced to me that there was medicine in China that was being sent around the world to cure the disease. Their enthusiasm was curbed by the blunt reality from the World Health Organization’s WhatsApp site: there is no vaccine, drug or treatment for COVID–19. This conflicting information creates its own trepidation. Who do we believe? What is a reliable source of information?

Schools closed with a one-day notice, telling 15 million students to go home.

Many parents and guardians had struggled and sacrificed to raise the funds to educate their children. Parents knew they would not need as much food at home since their children would be fed at a boarding school. With a one-day warning, the schools were closed. 15 million children were told to go home. Now parents have the added burden of caring and feeding them at home. One girl stated: “Headmaster. We left our posho and beans at school. Now, give us the food we left there. We are at home starving.” Refunds are unheard of.

Many people in Uganda are existing day to day. They may have a job that pays them a daily salary. They go to work by boda boda (motorcycle taxi) or a matatu (minibus). Now their means of transport has been banned. They have no means to get to work. Without work, there is no money coming in. Without money, there is nothing to buy food with. Most have no savings.

“We will die from hunger, not from the virus,” one person told me. “What is more dangerous, the restrictions or the disease? With the virus, I may recover; but without food, I will surely die.”

Churches now have an opportunity to be involved in a “spring of hope” in the midst of a “the winter of despair”.

To fulfill the great commandment of loving our neighbor, we must protect them and not jeopardize their health. The Christian response to coronavirus is to stay at home. It means to keep your distance. The answer to the age-old question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4.9) is “yes.” I have a responsibility. I cannot harm my neighbor. I have to look out for the good of others.

Fida works with local partners who are Pentecostal churches in East Africa. Worldwide, Pentecostal churches and charismatic movements represent more than 500 million people. They have a unique opportunity to do something in this surprising and unprecedented situation. Churches are now approaching their members through social media messages to prevent the disease and convey hope.

The Pentecostal movement has put the wheels in motion to get churches to take part in the fight against the corona pandemic. Last week, the Churches issued a statement entitled, “COVID-19 PWF World Missions Commission Recommendations for Churches”. The purpose of the document is to help churches identify, plan, adapt, and respond to the corona crisis (covid-19). Churches now have the opportunity to be involved in a “spring of hope” in the midst of a “winter of despair”.

Be safe by taking precautions.

Be smart by staying informed.

Be kind by supporting each other.


Blog post written by Hannu Happonen