Suffering Fighters: Church’s Response towards Suffering
Due to COVID 19, the world has changed. The pandemic has impacted our socio-economic life and transformed the whole world's socio-economic situation. It has impacted every sphere of life and no doubt it has brought uncounted sufferings for the hardcore poor and marginalized people.
According to a survey of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), about 13 percent of people have become unemployed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The survey also showed that over 100,000 people were displaced, with many among them slipping into poverty. People who were earning Tk. 5,000 to Tk. 15,000 (US$ 70 to 170) per month, their income has reduced by 50% to 75%. This portrays the reality that many people have lost their jobs; many are living with less than minimum income resulting in increased poverty. There is no doubt that, due to these reasons the number of people suffering and suffering at large has increased.
The people majorly suffering in this group are the Christians in Bangladesh. These suffering people are living within the Church and around the church communities. They are the part of the body of Christ. St. Paul reminded us when one part of a body suffers then the whole body suffers (1 Cor. 12: 26). Today, the body of Christ is suffering along with the entire world.
In this situation, Jesus called us to be with them and look after them all. Yes, like the disciples of Jesus we are also afraid of bearing the starving people and afraid of the cost of feeding. But we need to remember that Jesus demanded it from his followers and disciples. When the disciples took one step, Jesus blessed them and they were able to satisfy more than 5000 people (Mt. 14:13-21). In the same way, we the Church, and many Christian organizations may worry when we look at the present socio-economic situation and the number of suffering people.
Even at this time of challenge, we should not forget that with God everything is possible, we can overcome any challenge if we are truly united with God and with one another and share our resources, let it be the least coin or last coin. God the Giver and Provider will bless that abundantly and it will overflow. We need to have faith even in this time of suffering and crisis. We should remember our call to serve and our call for costly discipleship. When suffering comes God allows us to practice our discipleship and to serve God (Mt. 25: 35 – 36. "For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink...").
If there is no suffering, then there is no call for us. We are like firefighters, the firefighters do not expect that there will be fire always, but they are ready to fight with fire and they are not afraid of it, how big it may be. When there is no fire, they continue their practice on how to fight and control it. They give their best to restore things to suffering people. They continue their fight until they win, they never give up. In the same way, we the Christians are Suffering Fighters (compare with Mt. 16: 24; Mk. 8: 34; Lk. 9: 23, where Jesus said, "Take up your cross and follow me.") Always practice our faith and practice how to fight with suffering, pain, agony, injustice, sickness, and various challenges.
Now in this present COVID 19 context, we have sufferers around us, and it is the high time to fight and win. To fight against the sufferings with our resources of faith, unity, love, and care. When we all work together with our resources, like the boy who had five loaves and two fishes, we should bring it out to face the present sufferings and challenges. When we come forward and fight with it, miracles happen. Because God is with us and God was with David even though he was a small boy, a shepherd only. He was the Suffering Fighter who knew God is with him and he fought to win.
May God bless us during this challenging time of crisis to sow the seeds of hope and encouragement that may help others to fight with suffering and have more faith in God.
Rt. Rev. Shourabh Pholia is serving as the Deputy-Moderator and Bishop of Barishal Diocese, Bangladesh
Photo contributed by Rev. Henry Martin