The focus of this fourth article of the series centered on the question of whether Ebola is a curse or a natural or man-made virus is on the role of human responsibility in Ebola prevention and care. How much responsibility is required of man in steering his affairs and in caring for the environment? How does human responsibility fit in with divine providence and divine powers available to believers? Is having implicit trust in God contrary to doing what one is able to do? Should we have total confidence in God and at the same time take preventive measures stipulated by health experts? Let us examine in some detail below. The third article on divine providence highlighted the following main point:
Providence then is the belief that God never leaves us alone for a moment but that he can use the bad things that happen to us (caused by ourselves or others) to refine our character and fulfill his purposes. This does not in any way excuse human responsibility. People will suffer the consequences of their actions but that God can bring some good out of those actions.
Some believers wrongly think that human responsibility and divine support are incompatible. No, they are mistaken. The premise of this fourth article is that divine help and human efforts go hand in hand. We should not choose between the two. We make judicious use of both. Right from the beginning of creation God gave man privileges and responsibilities. He created man in his image and likeness and blessed him with reason, memory, freedom, creativity, and put him in charge of the Garden of Eden. He commanded man to cultivate and care for the soil. In other words man was made a caretaker of the earth to look after it and to enjoy some of its fruits (Genesis 1 and 2).
Jesus himself teaches us: “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48).
So every human being is blessed with creativity (reason), freewill, and has access to some possessions and potentials generally to make use of in order to make life better for self and others.
This brings us to the Ebola crisis. It poses a serious challenge to our way of life and very existence leaving aside the arguments about whatever its source is and whoever is responsible. We all (the affected countries and the international community) must face the challenge head on. Thanks be to God and the international community that lots of support are coming in now. The health experts and our leaders agree that the best scenario is containment and care for those who have already fallen victims.
The biggest challenge and gap in this fight against Ebola, at least in Liberia, is to break the chain of transmission. We seem to be losing the fight as the rate of infection is increasing rapidly. To break the chain in transmission requires the involvement of everyone—especially individuals and communities. The outsiders can help with the building of more treatment centers, movement of equipment and medicines, lots of experts and preventive materials but the behavior change that is required has to be taught and effected by communities.
Communities and individuals must use a lot of common sense and advice from the health workers to prevent themselves and help their neighbors do so. In this wise community leadership structure should be actively involved with every effort to fight and defeat Ebola. The National Taskforce is to decentralize by heavily involving the communities by sharing authority, resources, expertise and experience. The health workers who are in the frontline of this war must be given adequate support in every way: protective gears, compensation and insurance in case the worse happens. Efforts must also be put into taking care of illnesses and medical needs other than Ebola.
Churches and mosques are encouraged to get involved with effecting behavior change. They and the communities they live in can help educate and create isolation centers using schools, homes and other vacant buildings and to ensure that those who are isolated in centers and in their homes are given basic necessities and counseling without physical contacts. The message must get through that isolation/quarantine is to help those affected and the larger society and not to hurt anyone. To successfully fight Ebola we all need lots of prayer and earnest and honest efforts on everyone’s part. It cannot be either prayer or work. We need both.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once noted that to depend on our works and our works alone without any reference to God is atheism. Conversely, to sit and do nothing and expect God to do everything for us is not faith but presumption. Christianity is both trust in God and hard work. St. Augustine of Hippo put it like this: “Without God we cannot. Without us God will not”. In other words apart from God we can nothing. But though God can do without us, yet he has chosen to work through us mortals.