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Missionaries Pay Ultimate Price in Confronting Ebola in Liberia

Ken-Harper-CC

Aid to the Church in Need - published on 10/03/14 - updated on 06/07/17

Can blame be assigned for the crisis? Has the situation become so bad because certain institutions or persons have failed to fulfill their duty?

In Liberia, the Ebola outbreak began on March 22 of this year. At that time more could have been done, but the authorities underestimated the gravity of the situation. Moreover, the Liberian healthcare system, which doesn’t function well under ordinary circumstances, cannot be effective in dealing with an epidemic. There are lot of problems with organization and coordination. How can we cope if hospitals are closed? Even apart from Ebola, the population suffers from a whole range of illnesses and health problems. Now everyone gets very scared if they get a fever or a headache.

It has been reported that there are very strict regulations in dealing with the remains of Ebola victims in order to prevent further infections. Still, is there anything the Church can do to give the deceased a dignified funeral and help their families honor the memory of their loved ones? 

It is not easy to be present at the funerals of the victims of Ebola. For sanitary reasons, victims are buried immediately without anyone being present. But it is the Church’s mission to explain to the families and the community that we can properly honor the memory of our departed brothers and sisters in church and in our prayers.

How do you see the near future? Will the situation improve or get even worse? What urgent steps must be taken? 

For the moment, I don’t see any improvement. Ebola has had a huge impact on the country’s economy. Many people have lost their monthly income because so many places of work are closed. Prices are going up and the people have a very hard time. There are no basic services. Hospitals and all schools are closed. The Ebola epidemic is liable to cause economic crises and trigger social unrest. 

What gives you hope and what hope can the Church give the people?

The people of Liberia are very religious people who believe and hope in eternal life. At one of my meetings with the missionaries in Liberia, one woman religious—who has spent many years here—reported that during the crisis she has learned more from the people than she could teach them. Liberians have suffered much and continue to have a difficult life, but they also have great patience—and they know how to be happy and enjoy life. I hope that this night of Ebola will pass away as soon as possible, and that we can fully enjoy life again. Ultimately, our hope is always the same: we hope in Jesus Christ who has overcome suffering and death. We are sure that He will not disappoint us.

Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries.

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