Churches Play Important Role in Fighting Stigma
In West Africa, The United Methodist Church is helping communities prevent the spread of Ebola while offering compassion to those who are feeling stigmatized by the virus. Bishop Yambasu of Sierra Leone shared with the General Board of Global Ministries that during the passing of the peace, church members now place their hands on their hearts and bow to one another rather than embracing. Hand washing stations are also at the entrance of houses of worship.
In the U.S., many United Methodists have been in prayer with those in West Africa who are affected by the outbreak. Now that the first case of Ebola has been identified in the U.S., there is concern that people from West Africa will experience stigma and discrimination.
Dr. Olusimbo Ige from Global Ministries’ United Methodist Global Health unit said that the Center for Disease Control has stated that Ebola causes no significant threat to the United States. “Ebola is not an airborne disease,” she said. Referring to a CDC graphic, “You can only get Ebola from: touching the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from Ebola; touching contaminated objects, like needles; or touching infected animals.”
The Rev. Dr. J. Denise Honeycutt, who leads the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), encourages congregations to respond with love rather than fear. “There is no legitimate reason to limit interactions with people from West Africa,” she said. “As people of faith, we are called to walk with our brothers and sisters, particularly those who might be grieving or concerned for their loved ones who are at risk in their home country.” She added, “We want to welcome and care for others as Christ has done for us.”
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