Today is Day 12 of the Total Lockdown in India, and Day 15 of a Lockdown in Mizoram.
Today is also Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days here in Mizoram as it is a predominant Christian majority state. Every Palm Sunday, various Christian group members would take out a procession on the streets, shouting "Hosanna, Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord".
This year though, the streets were completely empty as nobody was allowed to come out of their house due to the Lockdown.
Instead, a short Palm Sunday service was conducted at each locality using loudspeakers!
Everybody stayed inside their houses and listened to the sermon, and prayed and sang praises to God without stepping outside. And then we all chanted, "Hosanna, Lalpa hminga Israel Lal lo kal chu fakin awm rawh se!" in one great unison that echoed across the entire valley.
Here's a short video I posted on twitter this morning. This was how the sermon and service was conducted in my locality Chaltlang. Increase your volume.
A blessed Palm Sunday to you all 😊🙏🏻 Here in Mizoram nobody is allowed to leave their house or go for Palm Sunday processions, so a short 10 mins service was conducted over the locality loudspeakers. Took this video just now from my balcony. pic.twitter.com/mVAcXPBRGT— Kima (@Mizohican) April 5, 2020
This was totally different from previous years when the streets would be filled with Church members taking out processions. Here's how today would have looked like in Mizoram if there was no CoVid-19 pandemic outbreak:
[thank you, Salvation Army Commander Zodini Hnamte of Pune for sending me the above video]
Beautiful right? Church members of all denominations would participate in a Palm Sunday parade around their respective localities, and since there are different denominations within each locality, it was common to see different groups passing each other. And of course the one I always wanted to see the most was the majestic Salvation Army Corps with all their usual trumpets, clarinets, drums, tambourines, etc.
But today was a different experience for all of us in Mizoram. No parades, no processions. As one of my friends aptly stated, this was a "Palm Sunday, home-delivered".
My relatives from Chaltlang, Chanmari and Kolasib too took part in this "home service" today, listening to the sermons from their respective balconies and lawns.
And to prevent people who live in the borders of different localities from being bombarded with different sermons at the same time, the timing was planned in such a way that no two neighboring localities were conducting their sermons at the same time. (Imagine hearing multiple loud sermons at the same time :D That wouldn't be a Palm Sunday, that would be a face-palm Sunday :P ).
Likewise, as I have mentioned above, there are different Churches within one locality, and so the entire service was divided among different leaders, like for example, in Mission Vengthlang locality, a Pastor from the Baptist Church of Mizoram started the service with a Bible reading and prayer, and a Pastor from the Presbyterian Church of India ended the service with a blessing and prayer.
Similarly other localities had Catholic Priests, UPC Pastors, ECM Pastors etc. conducting parts of the service. And so that was how Mizoram celebrated Palm Sunday today.
We may all be separated by distance due to the lockdown, but nothing feels more unifying than seeing all the different Churches come together as one to lead the masses. Hosanna indeed.
As I have mentioned in my previous post "Mizoram: Setting an example for India, people in Mizoram are following the Lockdown order by our PM very strictly. Among the reasons I have stated, I forgot to mention one very important factor, and that is the role of the Mizo Churches.
First and foremost, the MKHC (Mizoram Kohhran Hruaitu Committee), the apex body of all Christian denominations in Mizoram had already issued an official statement during the first week of March about CoVid-19 and the cautionary steps everyone should take.
And then shortly later, every Church denomination in Mizoram started canceling all Church services along with other Church-related functions like fellowships, weddings, conferences etc. This happened in mid-March and even though that may seem recent, do keep in mind that this was much before our Prime Minister Modi addressed the nation on March 24th and ordered a Total Lockdown.
I know the date very well because I became a butt of a joke! After months of facial treatment due to my pimples flaring up, I was finally healed and I planned to start going to Church from mid March onward. I even went shopping and bought a couple of new shirts to wear at Church!
I was really looking forward to my first Church service, and my friends were making fun of me like, OMG, you're finally going to Church, the world is going to end! etc… And then just two days later, our Church issued a statement that all Church services had been canceled indefinitely! Lolz. Yeah my friends had a field day laughing at me again.
I personally find the Church's decision to cancel all services very impressive because as a Christian majority state, we could have easily continued with our religious functions and gathered in public together etc., like how we saw some states in India still conducting large-scale religious functions recently.
Faith is a double-edged sword. Sometimes it can be a beautiful thing, but other times it can be a dangerous thing as well. If the Church leaders didn't close down the Church and continued the services, or even if they announced something like, "Due to CoVid-19, you don't have to come and attend Church service, those of you who are concerned can stay at home", there would still be many people going to Church.
But no, our Church leaders were against it and they shut down the Church with an iron fist. Historically speaking, this is apparently just the second time in our 130 years of Christianity that Church services had been suspended, the first time being during the insurgency movement of the MNF in the 60's. That is how important people are considering this pandemic to be, and this is probably one of the reasons why we still have only one positive CoVid-19 case in Mizoram as of today.
All the Churches are also doing many other work related to battling CoVid-19 and helping other people, but as I mentioned in my post about the Local Level Task Force, all office-bearers of different Churches are members of the LLTF, and so everything that they have done is in the name of LLTF and not an individual Church per se.
Apart from giving financial aid to the LLTF and those who are in need, the Churches are also contributing money to the Chief Minister's Relief Fund. As of 2nd April, 2020, the donations made by various Churches of Mizoram to the CM Relief Fund according to DIPR (Directorate of Information and Public Relations) is almost 40 lakhs INR!
Mizoram Synod, PCI - Rs. 9,00,000
Kohhran Thianghlim, Mizoram - Rs. 8,00,000
Baptist Church of Mizoram, Lunglei - Rs.3,00,000
United Pentecostal Church, NEI - Rs. 2,00,000
United Pentecostal Church, Mizoram - Rs. 2,00,000
Mizo Conference of 7th Day Adventist - Rs. 1,00,000
The Salvation Army, E.India Territory - Rs. 1,00,000
Catholic Diocese of Aizawl, Mizoram - Rs. 1,00,000
The Salvation Church (SAC), Mizoram - Rs.50,000
Assembly of God, Chaltlang - Rs. 50,000
BCM Hmeichhe Pawl HQ, Lunglei - Rs. 50,000
Zomi Baptist Church, Mizoram - Rs. 50,000
Evangelical Church of Maraland - Rs. 50,000
Evangelical Free Church of India - Rs. 20,000
BCM Zotlang Pastor Bial - Rs. 20,000
Apart from that, there are many things the Churches are doing, like the Relief and Development Department of BCM Lunglei went to different families distributing soap and sanitizers, the Salvation Army are also getting involved in other relief work, while other Churches are also distributing masks and rice to the needy.
Church groups like the Champhai North Adventist Youth Federation have been donating blood every day till today at Champhai Blood Bank, in batches of 6 members per day (due to the lockdown restriction).
There are definitely a lot of other contributions to mention, but for now I will stop at this.
It feels so great to see the Church stepping in and getting involved in this. More updates coming up soon, so do keep visiting for more. Once again, I wish you all a blessed Palm Sunday. Good night everyone.