What you can do during India’s COVID-19 crisis

May 12, 2021

The following was written by a dear friend who is a medical practitioner living in Delhi, India. 

Unless you have been taking a break from all social media, online news, and television, you probably haven’t missed the devastating headlines from every major news outlet in the world. India, specifically Delhi, has become the latest COVID-19 epicenter. The trouble is, unlike her peers who were the most recent epicenters (U.S., U.K., and Brazil), the urban cities of Northern India are bursting at the seams with people, and now disease. Only a few know the luxury of living in a home big enough to allow social distancing, have access to clean water, soap, and masks, and are able to work from home. Couple that with a national belief that the pandemic was all but over and a medical infrastructure that can only truly flourish in the best of times, and here we are.

Like most Delhiites, for the past three weeks we have nervously checked our phones with each ring or ding, wondering who else has been infected or worse, who else has died. Sometimes the text has been expected — a friend’s uncle or neighbor or grandparent has succumbed, or there is another urgent request for a medical consultation. Sometimes it’s unexpected, and we grieve the loss of a dad in his 30s, a young pregnant woman, or a toddler.

As the numbers began to climb, it was suddenly no longer enough to have money or family members around. In fact, no amount of cash, status, or influence could have gotten you oxygen last week. And for whole families who were infected, the situation quickly became impossible to manage without help. How do you buy groceries or food, stand in line to get an oxygen cylinder filled, or go from hospital to hospital to see who has an open bed when everyone you know has COVID? 

Goodwill groups 

At nearly the same time I noticed the ship beginning to sink, I encountered a wave of creative, motivated strangers who began to show up with solutions. Overnight, it seemed that miniature “goodwill groups” were forming in every corner of the city. 

Three weeks ago, I was asked to join a telemedicine consultation crew that would treat patients over the phone. Thirty of us manned the medical side and over 300 began to organize into a small army that volunteered to do everything from finding medication to babysitting kids whose parents were both extremely ill.

Christians in particular began to organize meal and medication delivery services, buy pulse oximeters and thermometers to hand out to impoverished patients, and acquire e-passes to be able to run errands for those stuck at home. Over and over again, I watched as people offered their cars to be used as ambulances, learned how to don PPE to administer oxygen, and risked their own safety to donate blood (at a less-than-hygienic hospital) to perfect strangers. One brother from my local fellowship stood in line for six hours in 108 degree heat to buy an oxygen concentrator for a patient I was caring for — not because he knew the patient or because he would be rewarded monetarily, but because sitting at home in fear and frustration was not an option for him. And it hasn’t been for literally millions of others.

In the darkest cave, even the fire from a single match can create enough light to show a trapped explorer the way out. And if New Delhi is experiencing soul-crushing darkness right now, she is also ablaze with millions of good deeds.

What can you do? 

Perhaps you have been wondering what you can do for India during this most recent outbreak. Honestly, the options are as endless as your creativity, but here are a few things that will likely make the biggest impact.

1. Check in with your Indian friends. 

Eighteen million Indians live outside of India, so you likely have Indian friends, or at the very least, know where an Indian family lives or works. Your Indian friends very likely know someone who has died in the past month. Call them. Check on them. Grieve with them. Several years ago I was in India when a loved one in the United States was suddenly killed in a horrific car crash. I couldn’t get back to America, and it nearly crushed my soul. Indians can’t get back home right now to check on their family, to care for their aging parents, or to attend last rites after a family member or friend has died. If you don’t have a relationship with any Indians right now, go eat at an Indian restaurant and ask your server how they are doing (I guarantee you that they can use the extra business right now), send your Indian doctor a card or flowers, or ask the Indian grocer if you can pray for him.

2. Be careful how you give. 

Giving right now is fairly tricky. Many NGOs are no longer allowed to receive foreign funds. Though good deeds are found on every corner, so are corrupt practices. It is difficult to know if the money you are sending to an organization will even trickle down to the people who need it most. If you personally know someone living in India, I would start there. If your friends can’t use the money themselves, they certainly know someone who can. As Delhi goes into her fourth week of lockdown, COVID is no longer the scariest threat. Instead, it is not being able to feed children, pay rent, or buy monthly medication. 

3. Pray! 

I’m not offering a bandaid for cancer or simple platitudes when I ask you to pray.  I cannot pretend to know exactly how prayer works, but I have seen the presence of God with my own eyes over these past several weeks. I have watched people turn the corner when they shouldn’t have. I have seen oxygen last for hours longer than could have ever been possible. I’ve seen religious and social differences truly overlooked for the first time in my six years here in India. 

An elderly gentleman that I know spent the night on the steps outside of the hospital because he was “too far gone.” The family begged for prayer, and we prayed — with all of our heart and soul and guts, we cried out to the One who gives life and breath. And from a medical perspective, I cannot know how he survived. I cannot know why he is recovering and will be going home to his family soon. 

And after you are done praying that this country and her people will survive another night, pray that the seeds planted in the burning ground of Delhi this past month will burst into an uncountable gospel harvest in the weeks, months, and years to come.

Catherine Parks

Catherine Parks writes and lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, two children, and a cute dog named Ollie. She's the author of Empowered and Strong, collections of biographies for middle-grade readers. You can find more of her writing at cathparks.com Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24