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Do Justice

Under extreme lockdown orders and crowded living conditions, SP staff in Manila offer ways to do justice

Manila's dense neighborhoods are especially vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown

In Manila, one of the world’s most densely populated cities, the COVID-19 lockdown renders staggering economic, health, and housing impacts. In informal settlements full of day laborers, the economic toll worsens by the minute. We spoke online with Aaron and Ema Smith, Servant Partners staff in Manila, to hear how their community is responding during this crisis.

How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting your neighborhood in Manila?

The situation changes daily, sometimes by the hour. We are in extreme lockdown. Each household was issued one pass that must be carried with identification whenever we go outside. You can only be outside if you have a valid reason, such as buying food. The president has given the police shoot-to-kill orders for those who don’t follow lockdown rules. Most roads and shops are closed. The streets are almost empty. The lockdown has stripped many people of their jobs, so now they have no income and are forced to stay at home, causing their poverty to intensify by the day.

Narrow spaces make "social distancing" difficult

What are you and your community doing in response to this crisis?

While maintaining social distance, we have been praying with neighbors daily. We have also been doing weekly food distribution, both with what we have purchased through the Servant Partners COVID-19 Community Support Fund, as well as a large food donation from a partner nonprofit organization. We shifted some of our work online. For example, Ema is teaching her GED class online, although the class has shrunk drastically because of students’ limited internet access.

How have you seen God at work during this time of crisis?

In our neighborhood, God has healed several relationships between family members and between neighbors, as people are forced to come together to help and rely on each other. Among our church community, we have seen a growing desire for prayer and Bible study. We are regularly asked when we will start holding worship services again. As the need for immediate relief grows, we have also experienced God by being able to access large quantities of food to distribute to our neighbors.

What reflections could you share for folks looking to respond to the COVID-19 crisis in their own communities?

Micah 6:8 calls us to “do justice.” The question for the people of God in the midst of the global pandemic and local lockdown is how to do justice.

Here are a few brief suggestions:

  1. Keep our households and ourselves healthy by following the World Health Organization’s call for social distancing and constant hand washing.

  2. Generously give to help those who have lost their jobs and sources of income, and buy from street vendors and small local businesses.

  3. Avoid the temptation to stockpile massive amounts of food or household essentials, causing shortages and rapid inflation, both of which greatly add to the suffering of the poor.

  4. Hold leaders accountable for their promises to help provide for the needs of the unemployed and mismanagement of the crisis.

  5. Keep a watchful eye on politicians who might use the current crisis to expand their power.

You can support the needs of Aaron and Ema’s neighborhood, as well as other urban poor communities around the world, by contributing to the Servant Partners COVID-19 Community Support Fund here.

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