In this sixth and concluding article of the series on what happens to Liberia after the Ebola crisis the focus is on the role of everyone, every partner in post Ebola Liberia. What are we doing now as the government, media, internal partners, inter-religious community, civil society organizations, teachers, traditional leaders, and communities in the fight against Ebola that will serve us well in attending to some of the post Ebola challenges that will inevitably follow? What lessons can everyone involved learn to deal with the aftermath of Ebola and other future emergencies, and making our society safer and better for all? Let us find out. The fifth article on the role of the religious community made the following observations:
The role of the faith based institutions in fighting Ebola and in dealing with post Ebola concerns cannot be overemphasized. 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.
This brings us to the role of everyone. The health experts inform us that we are now at the second phase of the war against Ebola. The first phase went through a lot of denial, the spreading of the virus disease out of control, panic and fear and then the overwhelming of everyone concerned and involved. Then support from the international community began to come in numbers, and then the government, local and international partners began to learn from early mistakes, acquired new skills and techniques in handling the emergency, and made some considerable progress.
The good news is that the rate of infection is declining in many parts of the countries with some notable exceptions. Phase two is a great opportunity and is at the same time a big risk. This is a great opportunity if we accelerate our gains and kick this deadly virus out of the country and the region, and a grave risk if we become complacent. The gains made thus far is the result of the combined efforts of everyone—the government, media, internal partners, inter-religious community, teachers, civil society organizations, traditional leaders, and communities.
The biggest lesson, for me, is the unity and consolidation of efforts to fight and defeat a common enemy. We can use this everyone contributing a part of the whole of district to district, community to community, and house to house approach to deal with many of our societal and communal problems and improve our life as whole. Can we use the same approach to deal with future emergencies and in attending to the many problems we have in the areas of health, education, economy, agriculture, and in fighting corruption? Can we, for example, knowing the rich variety of food crops of the land and their excellent nutritional value come up with a practical program of healthy dieting for everyone and do a community to community, and house to house effort until the program is caught and practiced like we are doing with Ebola. I am sure we can do the same in most areas of need. We can do a community to community, and house to house in the area of good security until a tangible result is yielded. And the list can go on. Ebola has hurt and exposed us but it can be an opportunity for us to make us better.