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28 November 2014

Ebola attacks what makes us human, says Archbishop

Ebola attacks what makes us human, says Archbishop

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, said today the Ebola virus "strikes straight into the heart" of what it means to be human.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) consultation on the Ebola response being held today in Geneva. The Archbishop addressed the consultation through a video message, where he also stressed the "absolutely crucial" contribution of churches and other faith communities in responding to the crisis.

The WCC meeting brings together representatives of Christian health, development and aid organizations and UN agencies to learn from each other and seek ways of collaboration to escalate their efforts.

Last month the Archbishop visited West Africa. "You're infected by the people you love most, and grieve for most – they are most dangerous to you when they've died."

"This is a challenge to the very heart of what it is to be human."

In the video, produced in collaboration with the Anglican Alliance – which is supporting the coordination of the Anglican response to Ebola in West Africa – the Archbishop said the way that churches grapple with caring for communities affected by Ebola "takes us right back to who Jesus is".

He added the love of Jesus goes well beyond "anything reasonable" and reaches to those who are struggling, dying and lost. 

"The person of Jesus Christ… goes into the worst of all possible places, in the worst of all possible conditions, and does so through our hands and feet and eyes and ears. But also does so by his Spirit," he went on.

Highlighting the need to scale up the international response, the Archbishop reflected on the need to overcome fears. "We must go by the science, not by the fear."

International Christian broadcaster Trans World Radio (TWR) is joining the battle against the deadly outbreak by using the ministry's communication network to spread health information across West Africa.

TWR personnel worked with government and health officials to develop a unified message;the emergency response project Alert Ebola. Alert Ebola is broadcast in French, which is widely used in the former French colonies of West Africa, English and local languages such as Bambara.

The broadcasts are in the style of health magazines and help to promulgate the governments' messages of hygiene and infection control. The radio slots are backed up by informative flyers which are distributed on the ground.

High quality, easily understood information is highly sought-after in areas affected by Ebola and so Alert Ebola and the fliers are being distributed not only by Christian groups but across the population, including through mosques.

An Imam in Mali said: "I am an Imam, but I would like to express my gratitude to TWR who gave us this information about Ebola. People fear this disease and nobody knows when it will arrive in our country. Since we are well informed now, we will take hygiene more seriously to avoid Ebola. I will definitely take advantage of prayer times to advise my fellow Muslims and my neighbours".

TWR's international director for West and Central Africa, Abdoulaye Sangho, is spear-heading the project. "TWR is very involved in the prevention of Ebola in West Africa," he said. "At the end of the day, we finish and we talk about the gospel. There is hope in Jesus. But first, it is about preventing Ebola."

So far the Ebola outbreak, which is affecting some of the poorest countries in West Africa, has claimed around five thousand lives and left thousands of children orphaned. Health resources are being stretched to the limit, economies are being affected and development is being put back by years.

By Amaris Cole and Amanda Pilz