Religious communities and actors can and have shown to be sources of guidance and support, sharing the responsibilities of care and acting as a support network to vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 pandemic. In many contexts, faith actors have played an important role through creative and practical approaches to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 measures and effects on vulnerable populations.
As Geneva Peace Week took place virtually this year, participants have been asked either to do live online sessions or produce digital products contributing to the theme: Rebuilding trust after disruption: Pathways to reset international cooperation. PaRD’s contribution to Geneva peace week 2020, is a dialogue with local and international religious actors who are each addressing the challenges COVID-19 has had on their community.
This podcast is a collaboration with Islamic Relief Worldwide, World Vision International, Side by Side and World Evangelical Alliance, who lead PaRD’s work-streams on Health, Gender, Environment, Water and Climate Action and Peace. It will take you to Delhi, Birmingham, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, and Thailand, to see what faith leaders and representatives of faith groups have done in the response to COVID-19… what were some of the successes and challenges that they faced, and what stories of hope emerged from their experiences.
Interview with Som-boon Chung-pram-pree otherwise known as Moo who is the Executive Secretary for the International Network of Engaged Buddhists currently based in Thailand.
Can you please tell us a little bit about the effect that you have seen of COVID-19 in Thailand?
Moo: When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Thailand is the first country out of China to have cases of COVID-19. In the beginning situation in January and February it was quite hectic, we didn’t know much about the virus because of the limited information. That caused worry the people of any level of the society. In the beginning, the Buddhist Sangha (community) in Thai society what they can do is just to give a praising and a make Buddhist chanting for the wellbeing of the people. At that time, that’s what they could do. When we knew more information about this virus, with the government, with the local communities, with the health care volunteers, the Buddhist Sangha and the other faith groups have been dealing with that. In March, the Supreme Patriach of the Buddhist society in Thailand has announced to the Buddhist temple to support the poor people, as in the past the Buddhist temple in Thai society had been playing the role at the centre of the community. And with this situation, this crisis situation, the temple became the centre not only for the monks, but also the lay community also helped the temple community to provide food until now in September, the situation in Thailand is quite under control, we don’t have more than 4.000 cases in the country. The situation is quite ok. But with the neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, India and other countries, the situation is getting worse.
As you realised the situation was getting worse in neighbouring countries what did the Buddhist community in Thailand do to respond?
Moo: That’s why in April, the international network of engaged Buddhist partners in those four countries have put up the purpose on the mindful action, COVID-19 emergency response. And with that project, there have been raising funds and support to the local communities through our partners. Right now, we have reached over 26.000 people in the local communities, some of them women vulnerable in the communities, [people living in] slums, as well as the people living in the refugee camps like in Myanmar and also in the remote areas in Bangladesh. This is what we have to support them, we still have limited funding to support. Now the number of the cases in India and Myanmar are increasing. We need to help raising more funding to support the local communities through our partners. And with our partners a lot of Buddhist communities in those countries, even [if] they are minorities in those countries, they also support. For example, in Bangladesh, they also reach out to Muslim communities in those areas as well, or in India to the Hindu communities. This is the work that is using that this tragedy to make a collaboration and support to each other amongst the faith communities in the local area.
Kindly listen to the full Pocast via this link.