A Billion Candles Against COVID-19 Darkness (The View from Africa)

By H.E. Grace Akello, Uganda’s Ambassador to India

The fight against Covid-19 in India entered a nine-minute high moment at 9 pm on the night of April 5. At precisely 9 pm local time, the people of India, to the last family, switched off all the electric lights in their homes and lit the country with candles. Candle-lit India glowed softly as her people prayed for the virus and all evil to leave their country. This massive response demonstrated the huge solidarity which the people of this country have with the leaders and physicians at the forefront of the Indian fight against Covid-19. Prime Minister Modi had made the call a few days ago; and the country responded en masse.

This was the second massive response to the high-level rallying call by the Prime Minister in the war against Covid-19 in this country of over one billion people. The first came out just before the complete lockdown of the country. Then,  PM Modi called on India to come out and cheer the doctors, nurses and other health professionalsat the forefront of providing services to those infected with the virus. Timed at the beginning of heightened government action against Covid-19, the national response was overwhelming.

India has taken a number of measures to fight Covid-19, the most stringent of which was the total lockdown a fortnight ago. Under the lockdown, most offices including those in the private sector were closed. Public transport systems were shutdown. Airlines were grounded: both domestic and international. Also closed were shops and markets except those providing groceries and pharmacies. Public gatherings of more than 50 people were banned. People were urged to observe social distancing; and to practice rigourous hygiene including frequent washing or sanitizing of hands; and no spitting in public places.

In a country where the majority of the population is Hindu, Prime Minister Modi drew on the Hindu diya or light-prayer to strengthen national resolve in fighting the virus. The diya involves lighting a lamp or candle in this case, to usher purity, goodness, good luck and power. This light is deemed to chase away darkness and evil forces. It also signifies remorse and self-cleansing from selfish and materialistic tendencies as shown by greed, jealousy, hatred, lust etc.

As the world grapples with Covid-19, the call by the Indian Prime Minister for a nine-minute lighting of diy will resonate well with prayers for redemption from all evil, by Uganda and other countries of the Christian world, whose holiest week started on Sunday (April 5).

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