The Shanti Daan house in Mumbai hosts 175 people. Missionaries care for poor people who die on the streets, on sidewalks, along sewer drains, at bus stops, at train stations and in public places. For them, a coronavirus patient who knocks on the door is like Jesus. The missionaries following government instruction so as not to put at risk their other residents.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Brother Alexius is a member of the Missionaries of Charity (the male branch of the congregation founded by Mother Teresa of Kolkata). For 31 years he has been taking care of the "poorest of the poor" in Shanti Daan, in Borivali, Mumbai. For him, the sick and suffering are “Jesus in disguise".
In India, the number of coronaviruses cases is rising, 147 at present. Given the situation, the missionaries are carrying out preventive checks on all new residents and will follow government orders in the matter. The Archdiocese of Bombay has also issued more restrictive instructions to stem the contagion. Archbishop Card Oswald Gracias, who heads the catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), has released the faithful from attending Mass until 31 March. He has also asked those over 60 who are sick or with fever not to go in church, telling them instead to pray the rosary at home and meditate a passage from the Bible. Meanwhile, he has asked the liturgical commission to prepare a liturgy of the Word for use at home.
Below is Brother Alexius’s testimony:
Shanti Daan is a home run by Mother Teresa's Missionaries of charity. We have accepted the mission [of caring] for people who are destitute, sick, physically and mentally disabled, dying and needy all over the world. We provide them with basic necessities (food, clothing and accommodation), medical care and we look after them with loving human concern.
Due to the spread of the epidemic, we have asked the police to test patients for the coronavirus before bringing them to the centre. The doctors told us to take the poor to hospital only after taking the test. Doctors also advised us not to accept people for the next 15 days.
In an emergency situation, if a dying person knocks on our door, we must evaluate all aspects. Mother Teresa always said that these people have the features of Jesus; therefore, we cannot avoid them.
We have to see all sides of the question. If a person who arrives tests positive, then all the other people who are already in the home will be at risk of infection. We must follow guidelines and rules.
Our centre hosts 175 people aged 18 and over. Including staff, we are 200 people. Some 30 are under the age of 20 with mental and physical disabilities.
We find people in the streets, the needy, the most disadvantaged, and take them with us. The poor die on the streets, on sidewalks, along sewer drains, at bus stops, in train stations, in public places.
Usually, the needy are malnourished, have chronic diseases, suffer from open wounds infected with worms; some suffer from severe tuberculosis, pneumonia, have lost their sight, are deaf-mute, with mental and motor difficulties, rejected by their families and relatives, by society and hospitals.
When the police find the poor and homeless on the streets and in hospitals, they take them to Shanti Daan. We give them a place and take care of them. Our service for the poorest of the poor is done in a simple way. They are Jesus in disguise.
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)