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In a surge of activity nationwide, India’s Baha’i community is urgently responding to provide necessities for their fellow citizens during this global health crisis.
Drawing on its experience with undertakings that contribute to spiritual and social progress, the Indian Baha’i community is striving to identify specific local needs – be they social, material, or spiritual – to rapidly mobilize resources.
“This tragic situation, as painful and difficult as it is, is bringing out the finest qualities in people,” says Naznene Rowhani, member of the Indian National Spiritual Assembly, “and we’re seeing local spiritual assemblies take an essential role in galvanizing the community into action.
“In city after city, village after village, we see that a greater consciousness of our common humanity is emerging among many people. This is spurring them on to help others and to transcend traditional barriers and prejudices that keep them apart.”
In the early stages of the crisis, Baha’i communities together with local organizations and institutions raised awareness about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In Nashik, the Baha’is assisted local police to run a public information campaign about preventive health measures, finding creative ways to disseminate facts and combat misinformation. They are now collaborating with the authorities to create support structures for the most vulnerable people in their community, for example safely delivering medicine to those who are confined to their homes.
Many efforts across the country have been spearheaded by Baha’i Local Spiritual Assemblies, which are executing plans to help meet the practical needs of their fellow citizens. In response to an urgent call from the Health Minister of Maharashtra for blood donations, the Local Spiritual Assembly of Maleagaon rallied many people to respond.
The Local Spiritual Assembly of Devlali is ensuring that families have access to government programs, including one that significantly cuts the price of grain. The Local Assembly is also working with authorities to assist grocery store owners to remain open while maintaining health measures. During this period when schools are closed, it is also assisting principals to ensure that no student goes without food.
Local Spiritual Assemblies in other parts of the country, such as in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal, are coordinating efforts to prepare and distribute thousands of bags of food to citizens whose economic situation has become precarious because of the crisis.
In one village, a construction company owned by local Baha’is used its trucks and other resources to bring food to 2,500 distressed households across 50 remote villages.
In Gujarat, local Baha’is, with permission from the authorities, transported with their tractors dozens of migrant workers stranded from their homes hundreds of kilometers away.
To respond to the great need for personal protective equipment, Local Spiritual Assemblies are also collaborating with tailors to make and distribute face masks.
Homes for the elderly are being visited by cadres of people to provide such masks and share accurate information about the coronavirus.
Individuals are creating media content that explores spiritual themes and holding online prayer meetings, at a time when the hearts of many are yearning to turn in collective contemplation to their Creator.
“The resources of any community are naturally limited,” says Ms. Rowhani, “however, with hope, creativity and the spirit of generosity, we are seeing a reservoir of energy being channeled into concrete action to allay greater suffering.
“All of this has required the full participation of individuals, entire communities, and Baha’i institutions collaborating with authorities and coordinating the efforts of thousands of people. These key players are working together and supporting one another to do what is required for the collective good.”