Talha Ali, Missionary, Philippines
Philippines has also been affected by the pandemic and as of the 12 June, there have been around 24,000 cases and a little over 1,000 deaths so far.
The government of the Philippines realised early on that even though the cases were limited, but due to the high-density population (top 3 most populated cities in the world are all in the Philippines, with Philippines holding 13 places in top 50, mostly in Metro-Manila area) and weak healthcare infrastructure, a preventive approach was the best approach.
Hence, the country was put in a very strict lockdown in mid-March, enforced through army and law enforcement agencies. Due to the strict lockdown, majority of the Filipinos were left without paychecks. Even though the government tried to help, but due to limited resources, the help provided by the government was late and even then, not sufficient at all.
At such a time, when everyone felt alone (quite literally due to social-distancing measures), members of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya Philippines felt that there was someone to look after them and worry about their well-being – Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa.
First of all, Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa asked all Jamaats to send daily report about the Covid-19 situation in their country. This concern from Huzooraa reminded us as well of our own responsibilities.
National secretary umur-e-ama for the Philippines was tasked to make a list of all vulnerable families and with guidance from Huzooraa, all such families were helped with financial aid to buy groceries.
Similarly, all muallimeen and local presidents were requested to keep in touch with members of the Jamaat and their needs. The role of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya is not only to help its own members, but also all of humanity. It is a tall order, but every great task must start somewhere.
In this regard, Humanity First Canada reached out to us and a preliminary plan was developed to help the community at large with groceries and through feeding programmes. Under these projects, Humanity First Philippines (in partnership with Humanity First Canada) has already distributed more than 350 food hampers, consisting of grocery items, and these have been provided to the community in four different locations.
The distribution was done in partnership with the local government, who highlighted the most vulnerable sectors of society and helped in organising distribution to maintain social-distancing protocols. The Jamaat also provided cakes, care baskets and greeting cards to the frontline workers to appreciate their brave service in these trying times.
Similarly, some members of the Jamaat also provided cooked meals to more than 300 people during the month of Ramadan. The next step of the humanitarian efforts is to have a series of feeding programmes through Humanity First Philippines, which will start from the second week of June, insha–Allah.
Majlis Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya Philippines had been conducting monthly feeding programmes even before the Covid-19 crisis, which was stopped due to the lockdown and restrictions. The Majlis plans to resume those also as the restrictions open up.
Due to a very strictly implemented lockdown, it was not possible for members of the Jamaat to gather at mosques. But with modern-day technology to the rescue, we were able to stay in touch with members and also cater to their spiritual needs to some extent.
During Ramadan, two live lectures were given everyday – one in English and another in Sinama/Tausug. By the time of Eid, the restrictions were eased a bit and up to 10 individuals were allowed to gather in certain places.
Hence, following these directives, certain branches were able to have limited Eid celebrations. Despite the fact that not all members were allowed to gather for Eid, arrangements were made by the Jamaat to send cooked food and small gift s for children to all Ahmadi households on Eid. We were also able to hold a virtual Khilafat Day Jalsa in the Philippines.
Most of the Jamaats in the Philippines do not have good Internet connection to be able to join through online webinar services such as Zoom. Hence, the Jalsa was transmitted live through Facebook and even then, one of our Jamaats was not able to watch it live due to poor internet connection.
Despite the obstacles, alhamdolillah, the Jalsa was very successful. Around 150 members joined the Jalsa live from five different islands of the Philippines. There were various places set up in mosques, libraries and people’s homes to watch in small groups (10 to 15) to have a feeling of a Jalsa while following social-distancing protocols. Snacks were served at such places to celebrate the Jalsa.
The programme of the Jalsa consisted of recitation of the Holy Quran, two Urdu poems and four speeches on the topics of “Khalifa is bestowed by God Almighty”, “Love and obedience to Khilafat”, “Responsibilities of an Ahmadi in light of messages received from Huzooraa in various Jalsa Salanas of Philippines” and “The love of Khulafa-e-Ahmadiyyat for members of the Jamaat”.