Expert: India Treating Christian Health Workers as ‘Expendable’ Fodder in Coronavirus Response

AP/Fernando Llano

David Curry, the leader of the Christian aid organization Open Doors, told Breitbart News on Wednesday that the group has received reports of Indian government officials sending Christian nurses to tend to the most contagious Chinese coronavirus patients because “they are considered dispensable.”

Curry emphasized that many nations on the organization’s World Watch List – the countries where freedom of religion is most restricted – have become even more dangerous for Christians in light of the current pandemic, among them nations like China, India, Iran, and North Korea. In some cases, Christians are struggling to receive proper medical care; in others, Christians are already among the nation’s poorest and must now contend with shut down economies.

In India, Curry told Breitbart News, Open Doors is receiving alarming evidence of Christian health workers being placed in dangerous situations with little support or care because of their faith.

“In many communities – in India, for example – churches have stepped forward. A thousand faith-based churches have offered to the president, the community in India to help. So Christians are stepping up and helping but there clearly is intense persecution in India,” Curry said, and continued:

We have reports of Christian nurses who are being scheduled to work with the most contagious because they are considered dispensable and lower than people of other faiths. These kinds of reports are flooding in and that’s why we want to draw attention to it because I think it yet again highlights the issues around persecution and how difficult it is for Christians and for other religious minorities in other kinds of circumstances.

The head of India’s Christian Coalition for Health (CCH), Father Mathew Abraham, announced this week that Christian hospitals and health workers were preparing to offer 1,000 facilities and as many as 60,000 inpatient beds to the Indian government for Chinese coronavirus patients. India’s health workers are all currently confronting a dire situation in which fear of the pandemic and discrimination has made it difficult for them to lead normal lives, including simply finding a place to live.

“They recognize us with our lab coats and stethoscopes. Many doctors have been asked to vacate their rented homes by their landlords as they believe that doctors staying at their houses may make them more susceptible to Covid-19,” one unnamed Indian doctor was quoted as telling India’s New Indian Express. “One (house)-owner even said we were dirty. They asked us to vacate without any notice. Most of the doctors are now on the streets and have nowhere to go.”

Curry noted that patients have received the endeavor positively and that Christian groups volunteered the help.

“The patients are just so thankful for the love and the care but … I do not want to see Christians neglected in the midst of this in these situations and put into more high-risk [situations],” Curry told Breitbart News. “I’m thankful and proud that they are serving so well and encouragement – that’s part of the message of Jesus, obviously, is to reach out to those that are suffering and hurting and we’re thankful that they’re doing that and I’m sure that the patients are as well.”

Open Doors’ concern, he added, is discrimination in exposing health workers unnecessarily to danger explicitly due to their religious identity.

“In some situations, I would say its cultural persecution, where Christians are put on the front lines with the most contagious because they are considered expendable,” Curry said. “I think we’re getting a number of reports that they are being exposed without proper care. Of course, we’re providing masks where we can and these sorts of things to people, Christians who are serving on the front lines, but we need to draw attention to the religious undertones of this tragedy.”

The Open Doors CEO added that he believed that the Trump administration was aware of ongoing problems with Christian persecution under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist. Open Doors’ World Watch List, published in January, India ranked number ten on the list of world’s worst violators of Christians’ religious freedom, above Syria and just below Iran.

“Christians in India face horrific levels of violence from extremists — thousands of attacks take place every year. Several states in India have adopted anti-conversion laws, and the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made it clear that it wants to impose these laws nationwide,” the 2020 World Watch List report read. “Such laws are often used as an excuse to disrupt church services and harass Christians, and make it incredibly difficult for Christians to share their faith with others.”

“My conversations with the administration lead me to believe they’ve had [talks at] the highest level – the president, vice president, have talked to [Prime Minister] Modi about it,” Curry told Breitbart News. “The reality is that India is still number ten on the World Watch List. It is in the top tier of countries that strategically discriminate and persecute Christians for their faith. That’s cultural, but its also a political strategy that Modi has used since he came to power in 2014.”

“Whatever conversations we’ve had and whatever relationship we hope to build has to be built on shared principles,” Curry advised. “Anything that’s not built on shared principles of freedom of worship and other values will certainly fall apart. So we need to do more to stand up for the 65 million Christians who are greatly oppressed in India.”

Curry also noted that several other nations that discriminate against Christians – most prominently China, Iran, and North Korea – have become hotspots of persecution during the current crisis.

“We are getting a flood of information from places like China, India, Iran, countries on the World Watch List, where persecution is intensifying because the Christian communities within these countries are being neglected because of their faith,” Curry noted. “In many cases, these Christians are considered enemies of the state, for example, in North Korea and elsewhere, and so they’re withheld medical care – food and water, they are the last ones to get them. So it’s intensified the suffering in this crisis.”

Curry questioned if China would allow many churches currently shut down to prevent the rapid spread of the virus to reopen after the crisis was over. China already claims that it had overcome the most difficult part of its national epidemic and reopened parts of the country, most critically the city of Wuhan, where scientists believe the virus originated.

“China’s policy related to church shutdowns – they shut down over 60,000 churches – they don’t seem to be prioritizing the spiritual needs of the country. We question whether some of them will ever be allowed to open again and using COVID-19 as a political ploy,” Curry said, and continued:

These are questions that I don’t have answers to, but that I wonder, considering what we’ve seen in the last 18 months from China. … the surveillance of churches, the scorekeeping of Christina behavior that appears to score church attendance and other things as … a negative on your social score. These are questions that remain and in a situation like this you could see how this would be used to discriminate against Christians.

“It’s reasonable to ask the questions, we just can’t seem to get answers from the government on this,” Curry noted.

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