Until this month I had never heard of Dengue fever. In case you haven’t either, it’s a mosquito-borne virus that can result in high fever, headache, vomiting, muscle and joint pains, and skin rash. In some cases, it can cause bleeding, low blood platelets and plasma leakage, or dangerously low blood pressure. It’s not always deadly, but it can be. And it’s highly contagious. I learned about Dengue fever as a result of the horrific flooding that’s taken place in Pakistan recently, leaving thousands dead, at least hundreds of thousands homeless with no possessions, vast infrastructure washed out and gone, nearly half of the crops ruined, and a third of the country under water. Since the Biblical flood, there has never been a flood like this impacting so many people.
Even if the flood waters subside, there’s still a calamity of millions having nothing more than the clothes on their backs. They have no food, and as the weather turns cold as winter begins, in many cases many have no shelter. Even dry blankets to sleep with on the ground under the open air are a luxury.
Why is an Orthodox Jewish Israeli writing about this at all? Why should you care?
First of all, as humanitarian crises go, this one is unprecedented. How can we not care, even coming from Israel which has no diplomatic relations with Pakistan, and from which there is tremendous hatred toward Israel.
As I have spent most of my career building bridges between Jews and Christians, we have to do so on a multitude of dimensions beyond the necessary and Biblically solid mandate to bless Israel. Real, meaningful relationships need to go both ways. For that reason, I was pleased, privileged actually, to undertake an emergency Pakistan relief campaign so that Jews and Christians could take action together. It’s not been in the news, and we have kept much of our efforts under the radar for the safety and well-being of our Pakistani friends. But it is newsworthy.
Our hearts pour out for all the millions impacted, but especially women and children, and Christians, who are treated as second class citizens in Pakistan’s Islamic society. Through Christian friends there we have been privileged to provide resources for food, blankets, sanitary products, mosquito netting, medicines, and more.
The mosquito netting and medicines relate to the Dengue fever, as well as a rise in malaria, another disease transmitted by mosquitoes which thrive in stagnant water. Mosquito-transmitted disease is not the only problem. Because so much of Pakistan’s water is now polluted, and there’s no access for many to clean water, people are left with no choice but to bathe in the filthy waters (that are often mosquito infested), and use the same water for cooking and drinking. Necessarily, that means a variety of gastro related illnesses is inevitable including diarrhea and other things that are not only unhygienic but deadly, especially if there’s no clean water, food, or medicine.
Coming upon winter, the fear is that the disease that’s just started is only the beginning, and there won’t even be place to bury the bodies of those who die as a result.
Even a wealthy country with the best infrastructure would have trouble managing this vast humanitarian crisis. Pakistan is neither. It is a rigidly divided tribal society where non-Moslems are second class citizens. That’s due to Islamic theology granting dhimi status to Jews and Christians formally. But being tribal, Christians are not part of the majority and widely discriminated against. Sometimes discrimination leads to persecution, physical abuse, and murder. Logically, while there may not be outright discrimination in relief efforts, non-Moslems won’t be first in line to receive aid. That’s why the Genesis 123 Foundation stepping up to provide relief, specifically to Christians, from Jews and Christians together, is so significant.
In the wake of this humanitarian crisis, there are stories of overt persecution and even Christians being forced to deny their faith in exchange for promises of food. In some instances, after denying their faith due to hunger and loss of hope, the food never appears. Forcing someone to deny their faith is bad enough, but rather than embracing them as new Moslems, they are mocked and discriminated against. Even if it’s not widespread, it’s troubling that in such a grave humanitarian crisis, people would be so inhumane toward one another. Of course, Christians experiencing or witnessing this cannot speak about it in public and there is no recourse.
This also plays out among women and girls, in ways that are probably too graphically to write about here. But suffice it to say, there’s a level of abuse that’s a hybrid between sad and evil. Doing so ever is horrid, but as part of a national humanitarian crisis is unthinkable.
There’s so much to be done that it sems like anything being done is just a drop in the bucket. But with each drop, lives can be saved, and hope restored. It will take years for many to recover materially. Grief and fear will be with them forever. Anyone can join the only network of Jews and Christians working together to help those most in need including women and children, and particularly Christians.
Let’s pray that just as I (and maybe you) have never heard about the Dengue fever until today, that the next generation of Pakistanis will also never know of this or any other such disease.
If only to be aware out of compassion, join the Inspiration from Zion podcast to hear more about the catastrophic events happening on the ground, what the urgent needs are, and how the crisis may grow from bad to worse.