‘If you want anything done, serve:’ Serving can break down barriers

When news about a couple from Ukhrul providing hot meals, buying medicines and groceries, and cleaning homes of Covid patients, their service was saluted by different communities and religions.

Amid the gloom and doom of life, we can see a glimmer of hope, if we are willing! In the midst of Covid crisis in India, many are seeing that light through the Sikhs.

With the rise in Covid-19 cases, India is struggling with acute shortage of oxygen.

In such a critical time, we hear about mismanagement of oxygen supply. Though the authorities claim to be intervening, it seems out of control. Mishandling of medical-oxygen supplies are rampant in different parts of the country.  

Yet, at a time such as this, many frontline workers have come forward to help. When the country is facing shortage of oxygen, as a community, Sikhs are providing oxygen to Covid patients. When our ‘Sarkar’ failed, Sardars prevailed. They have turned their place of worship as a drive-through oxygen supply to Covid patients, along with a helpline for booking their slots.

This selfless act is not a one time event. It is neither an isolated event. The Sikhs are known for their selfless service. Such desire to help is embedded in their faith – in their practice of langar. They are genuinely concerned about the welfare of others.

Whether here or abroad, Sikhs had to deal with challenges of being a minority community and racial discrimination or hate crime. It is an understatement to suggest that they have tasted injustice as a group of people. However, that has not stopped them from serving people in times of crisis. On more than one occasion, they have broken barriers of social isolation by serving. While helping people in need, they have encouraged-challenged others to reconsider their perception of who they are (i.e., the post-9/11 image of the Sikhs).

Our tradition, Christians, also has a rich history of serving in times of crisis. We come with a beautiful mandate to serve others: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you;” “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” History tells us that they risked their lives while serving others in need-crisis (i.e., during an epidemic). This selfless act of service – of putting their lives before others – worked in their favour as they attended to the sick and saved many lives.

This mandate is something we ought to remember and follow even today, especially in times of Covid crisis. We may be poor individually, but our churches are well off. It is an opportune time to serve people who are less privileged. As a community, North East India, that faces racial discrimination in the metropolitan cities (or the mainline India), it is a good time to offer our service.

With the outbreak of Covid-19, hate crime has increased in mainline India. This is confirmed by a study conducted by Indian Council of Social Science Research in New Delhi. Yet, when our people give sacrificial service, it does not go unnoticed. When The Logical Indian reported about a couple from Ukhrul providing hot meals, buying medicines and groceries, and cleaning homes of Covid patients, their service was saluted by different communities and religions. A kind humanitarian gesture is appreciated across the board. This is a gesture that can be imitated in the contemporary context and in different parts of the country. We cannot dismiss the prospect of what serving can do in times of crisis – of breaking social barriers, of ill intentions or of wrong perceptions.

Dr Taimaya Ragui is currently an academic research coordinator of The Shepherd’s Academy of Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life. His specialization is in the area of interfacing theological interpretation of Scripture and contextual theology. Views are personal.

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