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Liberian Christians unite in fasting in response to Ebola

07 November 2014


Precaution: a health-worker sprays a colleague's boots with disinfectant in Monrovia on Monday

Precaution: a health-worker sprays a colleague's boots with disinfectant in Monrovia on Monday

A THREE-DAY national fast has been held in Liberia by thousands of Christians in response to the Ebola virus which has devastated the country.

A national Christian task force on Ebola - made up of several different church denominations - was set up in September. In a statement, it said that the fast would bring "healing and restoration".

The Revd David Benito, speaking for the task force, said: "God has said that this fast, if done accordingly, will bring Liberia healing and restoration and the destruction of walls and barriers. We have done multiple fasts in recent times . . . and we will do many more when required."

Mr Benito, speaking at a news conference reported by Reuters, said that "Ebola is a virus from the devil. It's killing us because we have turned our back on God."

Liberia, along with Guinea and Sierra Leone, has suffered worst in the outbreak which has now killed nearly 5000 people in West Africa, 2400 of them in Liberia. About 85 per cent of Liberia's population of four million are Christian, and about 12 per cent are Muslim.

Faith leaders across the region have been using their position to spread important messages about halting the spread of the virus. As most public gatherings are banned, places of worship are one of the few places where people gather and can be given information about the outbreak, as well as supplies such as hygiene equipment. Traditional funeral practices have been highlighted as one of the greatest causes of the continued spread of the disease. As a result, faith-based agencies are working with Christian and Muslim leaders to teach communities about the importance of safe but dignified burials.

The Roman Catholic aid agency CAFOD is working with priests, imams, and traditional faith-leaders to spread the word about hand-washing and safe sanitation, and distribute hygiene kits. Its church partners are promoting safe burials and supplying food to vulnerable families.

Bishop Anthony Borawah, from the CAFOD partner Caritas Liberia, in Gbarnga, Liberia, said: "It is the poor who are the Church's priority. This disease makes ordinary human kindness impossible - like putting your arm around someone who is crying. The key to survival is to keep our humanity intact in the face of this deadly Ebola virus."

In Liberia, young radio reporters have been trained by the Children's Radio Foundation, led by an Anglican priest, the Revd Charlotte Bannister-Parker, to put out public-health messages to try to prevent spread of the virus. Mrs Bannister-Parker said: "Thanks to the other appeals, people are getting buckets and soap and protective clothing. . . Our radio messages come in at a crucial point in that educational process."

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