17 (Jesus) stood up to read the lesson and was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the scroll and found the passage which says,
18’The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me; he has sent me to announce good news to the poor, to proclaim release for prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind; to let the broken victims go free, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’.
Luke 4:17-19 – REB
Care for and concern for those who are downtrodden, those who are poor in money or in spirit, sympathy for the powerless, the oppressed and those at the bottom of society lies at the very heart of Christianity, as shown by the above passage in Luke’s gospel, which marks the start of Jesus’s ministry.
It is, of course, right that we should treat the victims of COVID and their friends and family with compassion. But I am increasingly concerned for those who are suffering indirectly as a result of COVID restrictions. They seem to be largely ignored and forgotten by our media. For this reason, I believe that as Christians, or even as citizens who care about others, we should be thinking and praying for the following people (not in order of priority):
- For those who have lost their jobs and have little chance of finding another (there are now 2.65 million unemployed in the UK and the HMRC says there are 820,000 fewer people in work now than in March 2020, with the number of redundancies in the quarter to October 2020 (217,000) being the highest ever in UK employment history)
- For those whose businesses have been destroyed as a result of one lockdown after another, and particularly those who invested heavily earlier in 2020, to make their businesses ‘COVID secure’. One in eight UK businesses failed to open after the first lockdown; what will the eventual tally be?
- For those who have tragically taken their own lives; for their grieving friends and family. I do wonder why members of SAGE thought it wise to suggest that there may be a need for lockdowns next winter; a policy almost designed to maximise despair. The UK data on increased suicide deaths in 2020 has not yet been published, but no-one will be surprised if there is a huge increase.
- For those suffering mental anguish, anxiety or depression, as a result of worry, fear, loneliness or lack of meaning in life. The ONS reports that there are 50% more in this category than before COVID. Most of those who work in this sector fear a massive increase in the number of people needing their help in the coming months and even years.
- For those children who, deprived of an education, may never fully recover their learning to where they should have been; for those who have worked diligently towards exams to improve their life chances, only to find that those exams have been cancelled.
- For small children, who may grow up with a terrible legacy of a lack of social contact with those of the same age. What might the long term impact of this be?
- For those who do not have the luxury of working from home. Research has shown that most of these come from those sections of society who are the least well off. There is also the additional problem of rising levels of ‘fuel poverty’ relating to those who have to work from home, but can’t afford to heat their homes during the day.
- For those whose employment has continued to some extent, but whose income has dropped to the point where they can no longer meet their financial obligations, including those who have had to look to food banks to help feed their families.
- For those who are literally terrified by the daily reminder that they are mortal. When did we decide to start behaving as if we had conquered death?
- For those elderly who have absolutely no interest in continuing to live, but who feel pressure to accept vaccinations that may make them live longer. I do find it extraordinary that some of those who show the most concern at the number of COVID deaths are also those who campaign for ‘Assisted Suicide’. The BBC sees no inconsistency in this.
- For those who have been subject to physical and mental abuse from their partners, during such a time of high stress; for those who form part of the 20% increase in domestic violence; for the children under one year old, who form part of the 20% increase in babies suffering serious injury, (according to OFSTED).
- For those whose life savings and retirement plans have been destroyed by the reduction in investment values; for those whose plans and dreams have been shattered and for whom the future now looks bleak.
- For students, whose studies have been completely disrupted, but who are still expected to incur the same massive debt at the end of their courses.
- For those whose relatives have died of non-COVID causes, but who were unable to see their loved ones before they died, or give them support in their last days; for those who will never be able to forget the pain of the lack of one last hug. We should remember that by March 2020, this number will exceed 500,000, as COVID is only 20th on the UK list of most important causes of death (with ‘flu and pneumonia at 7th)
- For those who have been forcibly separated from their loved ones in Care Homes.
- For the young, fit and healthy, who are potentially going to spend the rest of their lives helping to eliminate the fastest increase in UK National Debt in our country’s history. The ONS reports that there has been a sixfold increase in public borrowing.
- For those awaiting justice, who may have been deprived of it during COVID restrictions.
- For those who have been too frightened to, or not able to, access health care for their condition and as a result their health has deteriorated. We still don’t know how many will die as a result of this; one early UK government estimate suggested 200,000. There are many reports of increased avoidable deaths at home from cancer and cardiac arrests.
- For those who have not been able to access UK government financial assistance, as a result of arbitrarily falling outside the ‘rules’.
- For those who do not know what to believe about what is happening in the world; who no longer trust any of the media or news outlets; for those whose trust in Science has been lost.
- For those whose relationships with neighbours and friends have been destroyed, as a result of being reported to the authorities for supposed breaches of regulations.
- For those who have been unable to attend funerals, in order to say farewell to close friends or relatives; for those who were deprived by death of an opportunity to say sorry.
- For those with no gardens and no access to nature.
- For those whose anxiety and fears have driven them into drug or alcohol abuse. ‘Drinkaware’ reports a 38% increase in alcohol consumption.
- For those who’ve missed the celebration of ‘life’ events: weddings, baptisms, anniversaries, important birthdays etc
- For those watching their debts spiral out of control and who know that they will struggle ever to pay them off. Citizens’ Advice reports an increase of 60,000 in those seeking their help.
Heavenly Father, we know that you care deeply about those who are suffering at the present time. Help us to keep these people in our hearts and prayers; to offer them hope where we can and to look after our ‘neighbours’. Amen