COVID-19 IS WORSE THAN WE THINK IN THE MIDDLE EAST
As COVID-19 is sweeping across the world right now, there are many emotions capturing the nations—fear, anxiety and urgency to name a few. Perhaps you have already experienced going to the grocery store to find empty shelves where water and paper products once were or worse medicine and cleaning supplies. What is at the cause of this? And how can we as believers stand firm, keeping our eyes on things above at such a time as this?
Last week was the Jewish celebration of Esther, the time of year now called “Purim.” Purim was when Haman cast lots to determine the day of the annihilation of the Jewish people, and literally means “to cast lots.” Isn’t it interesting now that there is a plague sweeping the nations and particularly the nations of Central Asia where the Jews primarily were during the time of Haman. What is more, we remember that as the news spread of the imminent destruction of the Jewish people their response was not to panic or flee, but to call a fast and pray.
WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON IN CENTRAL ASIA?
The greatest problem we are facing is that the information we are receiving is not accurate in regard to the number of cases or deaths from COVID-19 in Central Asia. This could partly be due to numerous technology and communication challenges—the numbers are simply changing faster than they are reported. However, that does not explain why as of 16 March 2020, the World Health Organization (The WHO) is only reporting 10 cases, and the COVID-19 live data is only reporting 12.
According to this recent article, up to 15,000 refugees are returning from Iran every day into Afghanistan even though they say the borders are closed. It is still yet to be seen how many have contracted the virus inside the country before these floods of refugees. COVID-19 inside of Afghanistan and surrounding countries is even more concerning than much of the world due to the difficulty of access to medical care and living conditions—both physically and culturally.
For example, we shared a recent article about the hard winter in Afghanistan and how many were dying for lack of blankets, coal, and supplies. Many die while traveling to try to reach Kabul, the capital, for medical care.
The larger cities are inundated with too many people to accommodate and the smaller provinces do not have medical care at all. It is possible that people have the virus—but will never be tested— and spread it to others or risk the long journey to a testing site, which we are being told is a danger in itself by putting yourself around others who are testing positive.
Another issue for Afghanistan and surrounding nations is the Middle Eastern culture of sharing spaces and being in close proximity to one another. Try telling a Middle Eastern family that they need to separate, stay inside their own home, or even sleep in different rooms—this is not the cultural standard. For financial reasons but also cultural ones, many people will share the same house or stay with each other in their homes. The women and children will all sleep in one room together, and the men all in another. This fear of contracting the virus and spreading it is also causing emotional pain and trauma as Middle Easterners are torn between feeling they perhaps need to segregate, which means losing a cultural part of themselves.
When we are praying for these regions let us remember faith over fear. Let’s also remember that this virus’ mortality rate is 2% compared to other major outbreaks we have endured through the years like Ebola with a 40% mortality rate. This virus will get contained, and God is in control. With that said, first and foremost, pray from a place of peace and faith.
Secondly, pray for GCM disciple makers who are working in these regions.
There is no travel, which is unusual for this time of year—Persian New Year. People are scared, hopeless, and looking for help. Pray that God would give us creative strategies for bringing hope to the hopeless—even during quarantine. Pray that we would have even more faith and no fear as we interact with those quarantined and wherever the Lord directs us through Compassion Ministries.
Third, get involved today with GCM.
Since borders are closed, no food or supplies are coming into the country. For example, the doctors cannot access surgical masks or gloves. One source told us they found some gloves at a store in the morning and they had doubled in price by the afternoon. The economic hardships were already substantial and now without food coming in, the hardships have increased dramatically. Even the cost of flour doubled in one day.
However, through GCM’s Compassion Ministries, we are able to access hard to reach people groups with food, supplies, and care at this critical time.
Ask the Lord how much you should give today, giving from a place of faith. It is our desire that none would perish the eternal death, but all would have an opportunity to receive Christ, especially those stricken with the virus. May we get an opportunity to share the gospel with them before it is too late. Your financial gift will allow us to send relief aid with a measure of access to the gospel to unreached communities in the Middle East. You can give to this need by selecting “COVID 19 Relief Fund” from the giving options HERE. Contact us directly to set up large gift transfers below.
Thank you for joining GCM by getting involved in reaching those living in restricted areas of the Middle East. Your partnership means the world to us.