Religion and Medicine in the wake of COVID-19 Disaster in India

Todaiji Temple in Nara was inaugurated with eye-opening ceremony by a teacher, Indian who visited Japan for the first time, Bodhi Senna. There was a smallpox epidemic in Japan at the time, and Emperor Shomu, who had a deep faith in Buddhism, prayed that he would cast the Buddhist temple Buddhist Buddhism and restore the country to the disaster. The new coronavirus, which is pushing the world into an unprecedented crisis, also creates a great deal of anxiety in people’s hearts, and religion has a major role to play. However, it has become difficult to combine religion that requires “contact” with people and medical care that requires “non-contact.” A deep relationship between religion and medical care emerges as the damage in India is expanded.

  1. Globalization and infectious diseases
    There is a large stone monument “Nezumi-tsuka” in Shounji Temple near Hiroo Station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line. It was built to commemorate the rats that were exterminated as a source of infection during the plague epidemic in Tokyo in 1900.
    “To the great blessing of this stone mound, where even a myriad of mice hang out”
    The mess at the time can be read from the poetry on the back of the monument. Rats mixed with cotton imported from India, where plague is endemic, are considered to be a major source of infection. The plague epidemic occurred at the dawn of the globalization of the global economy, and had a great impact on the world. In India, labor shortages caused the cotton industry to be hit hard. The global spread of logistics has expanded the infected area.
    At that time, most of the world’s logistics was by sea, but now the world has a network of airlines. In the case of plague, the mouse was disposed of, but since the new virus infects from person to person, it is not possible to take such a response, and in order to cut off contact between people. People have no choice but to take the target distance. It is difficult in India, which is a population-rich country, and it is extremely difficult in India, which is also a religious power.
  2. Expanded infection in the whole lockout.
    The first confirmed coronavirus infection in India was January 30th. He was a student who returned from Wuhan, China to Kerala in southern India. India immediately took strict preventive measures to stop the spread of the infection. The Immigration Bureau announced on February 27 that it will suspend the entry visa issued to Japanese in the airport. On March 2, WHO (World Health Organization) listed Japan as one of the “most concerned countries,” and the next day, the Indian government took the extraordinary step of invalidating issued immigration visas. The infection of Indian crewmembers on the cruise ship “Diamond Princess” anchored at Yokohama Port was widely reported in India.
    The first death was revealed on March 12th. A 76-year-old man who had stayed at a Saudi Arabian children’s home for about a month died a few days after suffering from respiratory distress in the week after returning to southern Karnataka. Prime Minister Modi made a speech on television, and from March 25, he ordered a three-week national lockdown. Factory operations and construction site work have stopped, and many railways and buses have stopped. The poor lost both income and food. Many migrant workers who have lost their homes have begun to return home on foot.
    Those who broke the curfew rules were hit by batons when they were found by police officers and vowed not to go out again. They were forced to do push-ups and squats in the city for reflection. Some police officers wore helmets that imitated the shape of a coronavirus, and they took strict prevention measures.
    Even so, the spread of infection did not stop, and the number of infected people increased to 50,000 at the beginning of May, and the death toll increased to 2,000. Although the number of fatalities is smaller than that of Western countries such as the United States, Italy, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom, the risk and consequences of an outbreak in a country wiht population of 1.3 billion are enormous. What was especially worrisome was the outbreak of infection and the deterioration of public safety in densely populated areas. In the Dharabi district of the slums of Mumbai, the sixth-largest city in the world, migrant workers who lost their jobs when the lockdown was announced were pushed to the station to escape from Mumbai. Mumbai has a population density of over 20,000 people per square kilometer. With a density three times that of Tokyo, there is only 4.5 square meters of living space per person. It’s hard to avoid three-fold.
  3. Religion that became the place of infection spread
    It was in religious institutions where the danger was particularly high. Contact is inevitable at the mosques or Hindu temples and Islamic worship centers where many people gather in one place. Looking at the local media reports, the conflict between the faith of people trying to escape disasters and the medical knowledge that requires not to approach each other created various confusions.
    First, the missionary activity became a problem. It was discovered that Bardeb Singh, a Sikh guru who returned to India from Italy, was infected with the new coronavirus. After returning to Japan, Ms. Singh preached over ten rural villages in Punjab, northern India, without any isolation period. Singh, who seems to have become a super spreader, died on March 18. Positive reactions were revealed from 19 people who had contact with Singh Singh. In southern Karnataka, hundreds of people attended the Hindu temple festival to form a crowd. The area was where the first victims of the new coronavirus were found and was on alert as an infection hotspot. People’s anxiety caused information confusion.
    The media of the Internet is accelerating the confusion. On March 20, the Indian government instructed social media operators to control the spread of false information. Uncertain information and various hoaxes were widespread, such as the virus being scattered when the corpse was cremated, and the flight crew members being infected.
    One of the example was a movement to criticize meat eating. A ruling BJP party politician argued that the sale of meat and other foods was against vegetarianism and had to be regulated. A rally for drinking cow urine was also held. In New Delhi, on March 14, dozens of Hindu activists drew cow urine, a holy creature of Hinduism, to protect themselves from the new virus. The medical effect is unknown. In India, raw materials derived from bovine urine have been used for medicines and daily necessities even before the Corona Eruption. Meanwhile, in Kolkata, a member of BJP was arrested by local police on March 17 for compelling participants to drink urine at a similar cow urine drinking rally. It is said that the participant got sick and appealed to the police.
  4. The targeted Muslims and medical personnel
    Dealing with Muslims has also become a difficult issue. It started with a meeting of Islamic groups held in New Delhi. Infection of new coronavirus spread among participants. Thousands of people from not only India but also Muslim Indonesia and Malaysia attended the rally. Believers in Islam line up at narrow intervals and offer prayers to God, so it is easy for them to become “san-mitsu”. Increasing voices of criticism of Muslims, especially the radical Hindus, due to the spread of mass infections and growing anxiety. Some people have claimed that they are using a virus to set up a “corona jihad”. When the Internet spreads information transmission and religious confrontation develops into political and international issues, it becomes uncontrollable. There was a danger that could shake the stalls of the “secular nation” India.
    At this time, the problems of domestic Muslims were likely to be political issues in India. Late last year, the Indian government passed a “National Law Amendment” that could grant citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants. The law exempted Muslims from salvation, which led to increased criticism that it discriminated against Muslims, leading to large-scale demonstrations nationwide. In the Kashmir district, where a large number of Muslims are dominated, the autonomy of the inhabitants, which had been protected for many years, has been stripped, and the Muslim side has become more wary of the Hindu supremeism. Large-scale religious riots have occurred in India in the past, and Prime Minister Modi himself experienced the fear during his time as a local politician.
    The issue of religion spread to international relations. In its annual report, the US Commission on Freedom of Religion (USCIRF) ranked India as the lowest ranked “particularly concerned” country for religious freedom, including China and North Korea. On April 28, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of India strongly opposed this. Even in the Middle East, where there are many Muslims, with the growing awareness of fellow Koreans in Muslims in India, the movement of both cooperation and confrontation in the international community has spread due to the new Corona War.
    UNICEF = United Nations Children’s Fund issued a statement on April 7 in collaboration with the World Religious Peace Conference, calling for collaboration across religions. On April 11, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on religious leaders around the world to play an active role in the fight against the new coronavirus.
    It is not just Muslim issues that have become more serious. One of the major obstacles was the false perception that healthcare workers spread the infection. Health care workers, who often interact with patients, were the targets of violence and harassment. Although some cases of infection were reported by medical personnel, Indian medical personnel struggled to reduce the damage due to the danger and the situation. The Indian government has decided to impose up to seven years in prison for unlawful acts such as violence against health care workers, and a revised amendment to the Infectious Diseases Law was enacted on April 22. However, for healthcare professionals, “contact” with people is an unavoidable process. A sociologist at the University of Ambedkar, has focused on the concept of “clean” and “unclean” castes, while pointing out that medical practitioner are “new untouchables.” Religion and medical care are closely linked, so the exit of the problem is difficult to see.
  5. How to balance religion and medical care
    “Contact” that religion requires and “contactless” that medical care requires. There is a place closely related to the two. Commonly known as “houses of people waiting for death”. Established in 1952 by Mother Teresa in Kolkata as a facility for the care of the sick. Since there are many sick people, there is a risk of infection, but since it is a facility that conducts humanitarian activities, it is unavoidable to contact patients. The facility has been operated here with a delicate balance between contact and non-contact. Religion and medicine are not mutually exclusive, but rather have a strong connection. Mother Teresa’s humanitarian activities are mostly medical, such as hospice, homes for people with HIV, and facilities for people with leprosy.
    Infectious diseases such as plague, syphilis, Spanish flu, and HIV are deeply linked to the awareness of human contact in world history. Corona in India is an opportunity to ask questions about how to keep distance from others.
    In India today, various wisdoms that balance “contact” and “non-contact” are attracting attention.
    On March 28, the Ministry of Railways of India announced plans to convert the train into a temporary isolation ward in case of a shortage of isolation wards. In rural India, rail cars have been used as mobile hospitals, so they have a wealth of experience. In southern Kerala, a houseboat floating on a lake was converted into a patient isolation ward. In the same state of Kerala, local police released a video on March 17 in which masked police officers danced to push them to wash their hands and told them how to properly wash their wrists and nails. This is an initiative unique to Kerala, a medical advanced state.
    There are initiatives unique to India’s IT power. An app recommended by the government uses the location information of smartphones and mobile phones to track contact history with infected people. The IT department in India started a free distribution on April 2 by a mechanism that notifies you when you know that you were in contact with the infected person.
    Another thing in India is attracting attention as a way to avoid contact. It is a “Namaste” style greeting with both hands in front of your chest. In order to prevent virus infection, in Wuhan, China, where people could not shake hands during greetings, “Wuhan Greeting”, which involves contacting with their feet instead of shaking hands, attracted attention. The “Namaste” greeting is an Indian style contactless greeting. You say Hello or Konnichiwa. The greetings words can be left to your discretion. Put your hands together to keep the distance from the other person and maintain the “non-contact” required by medical treatment, while maintaining the “contact” of your heart.
    Until the end of May, Todaiji Temple, which is associated with Bodhi Sena, will not go accept people in the main place until the end of May, and will have the Great Buddha “worship” near the middle gate. A video of the Todaiji Museum is posted on the internet, and at the Great Buddha Hall, a monk is praying for the end of the Coronal Era and the recovery of the affected people.


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