With starvation fueled by the COVID-19 crisis threatening thousands across South Asia, GFA World has launched a new global movement -- Don’t Mask Your Eyes -- to draw attention to the suffering of migrant families.
“The face mask has become a symbol of our deeply troubled times,” said K.P. Yohannan, founder of Canadian-based GFA World. “But we cannot mask our eyes from the injustice and suffering that’s inflicting thousands of families across Asia right now.”
GFA World’s new campaign aims to make visible the “hidden” suffering of an estimated 45 million transient labourers and their families -- many made jobless by the health crisis, and starving hundreds of miles from home.
I believe the crises we’ve experienced in America over the past weeks -- and continue to endure -- are opening the eyes and hearts of many to injustice and suffering around the world.
- K.P. Yohannan
Working with government officials, local church networks supported by GFA World are feeding thousands in the Punjab region of northwest India, where the pandemic has closed factories and forced many of South Asia’s poorest out of work.
Hungry crowds swarm relief teams distributing food, making social distancing impossible. At some locations, hundreds line up for hours in the hot sun waiting for a plate of rice.
“I believe the crises we’ve experienced in America over the past weeks -- and continue to endure -- are opening the eyes and hearts of many to injustice and suffering around the world,” said 70-year-old Yohannan, launching the Don’t Mask Your Eyes campaign. “We cannot help thousands on our own, but we can each help at least one.”
In Punjab, many migrant families face a trek of hundreds of kilometres on foot to return to their home villages after factories were shut due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
One migrant family on the edge of starvation reached a feeding station just in time. “Because the children were crying, the parents were also crying,” said Bishop Martin Mor Aprem, a local church leader.
Another migrant labourer set off to walk over 900 kilometres to his hometown, but was robbed on the way. “If it hadn’t been for the local feeding ministry, he would have starved to death,” Yohannan said. “And he’s just one of the thousands in deadly danger.”
When local officials arranged bus transportation for 200 migrants, local church teams prepared food to go.
Meanwhile, thousands of labourers were uprooted by “super cyclone” Amphan that struck east India and Bangladesh in May, causing widespread hunger.
“These times are not easy,” said Yohannan, “but our Lord Jesus is providing us with the greatest opportunities to be His hands and feet in these difficult days.”
Those interested in supporting GFA World’s hunger relief efforts in Asia, should go to: www.gfa.ca/press/covid-19.