CONSIDERING POST-EBOLA LIBERIA (PART FIVE): THE ROLE OF THE RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY

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The thrust of this fifth article of the series on what happens to Liberia after the Ebola crisis is on what I perceive as the significant role of the religious community in fighting Ebola now and in post Ebola Liberia. How is the religious community involved with the fight against Ebola? And what role will it play in attending to some of the post Ebola challenges that will inevitably follow? Who or what is the religious community we have in mind. We shall discuss below. The fourth article on some key suggestions to the government underscored the following points:

I would like to suggest that there be some all inclusive conferences on our health system economy, education, agriculture, and on how we fight corruption. These conferences should make use of the best minds of the land, regardless of political affiliation, in critically researching where we are at in these critical areas of our national life, and come up with concrete plans and systems that transcend any particular governments. We pray and trust that this greatest of national challenges will be an opportunity for the rebirth of the nation in the areas of health, economy, education, agriculture, the management of what we have, and fighting corruption.

In post Ebola Liberia serious attention has to be paid to those who are hit the hardest by Ebola, the survivals, families of the health workers who die in the fight, orphans, widows, widowers, and all who have and are losing their means of living. Integration of survivals into their communities must be a priority. The nation will have to take care of the education of the orphans caused by Ebola who are of school going age up to college or at least high school, and entrepreneurial support to those who are able to enable them support themselves and families and be in a position to contribute to the welfare of the nation. The government of Liberia will have to encourage and facilitate the unifying of the whole country in going back to the drawing board and re-make the nation for the better. There is a need for us to move away from rote learning to creativity and innovation and commitment to making the most of what we have. History has shown that those who pass through some of the greatest challenges in life tend to develop better and faster than ever before and I trust this will be the case with Liberia.

This brings us to the role of the faith based institutions in fighting Ebola and in dealing with post Ebola concerns. Most Liberian believers who have considerable influence in the nation are either Christians or Muslims. I am aware that there are others who may be African traditional believers or some other religions but the most influential are Christians and Muslims. These two religious groups fall under the umbrella of the Liberian Council of Churches (LCC) and National Muslim Council of Liberia (NMCL). All the mainline Churches (Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc.) and some Pentecostal denominations are members of the LCC. Again I am aware that there are some Churches and Mosques that do not fall under the LCC and NMCL and they too are involved in some ways. Most of what I am sharing about the involvement of the religious community with Ebola fight is specific to the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia (IRCL) headed by Archbishop Jonathan B. B. Hart and Sheikh Kafumba F. Konneh.

This group is collaborating and coordinating the interventions of Churches and Mosques in the national response to Ebola. They are making as parts of their sermons Ebola messages and awareness, training and dialoguing with their members about Ebola prevention and care for its victims, and providing relief and practical support.

Recently the IRCL sent pastors and imams in pairs (one pastor and one imam) to five affected counties, Bomi, Bong, Cape Mount, Lofa, and Nimba to hold training sessions and dialogues with over 300 pastors and imams about Ebola. The trainings and dialogues emphasized religious practices that are deemed dangerous with regard to the spread of Ebola and why they must be suspended now in order to save the living. It was stressed how these pastors and imams must be involved at every level: county, district and community. They can help their communities isolate and care for suspected cases and their affected households, and support victims get treatment while protecting themselves and others. More of such interventions are planned to be implemented soon by the IRCL. A large segment of people are excited to see Muslims and Christians working together for the common good.

It intended that such collaboration to pursue the common good will continue and even accelerate in post Ebola Liberia. The need will be for community involvement in overcoming common problems and in advancing the good of all of society in the areas of health, economy, education, agriculture, management, and dealing with the cancerous virus disease of corruption. More will be said about this when we, in the last article, explore the role of all segments of society in post Ebola Liberia. 

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