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Richard Wiah, president of the College of West Africa, a United Methodist school, checks the temperature of student before he enters the classroom.

File photo by Julu Swen, UMNS

Richard Wiah, president of the College of West Africa, a United Methodist school, checks the temperature of student before he enters the classroom.

Liberia honors churches for service during Ebola outbreak

By Julu Swen
July 31, 2015 | MONROVIA, Liberia (UMNS)

Prayers and action undertaken by the Liberian Council of Churches during the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015 have been honored by the Liberian government with the distinction “Commander, Order of the Star of Africa.”

the church and ebola

The United Methodist Church and its partners have been actively responding to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa since it began. According to the World Health Organization, the deadly virus has claimed more than 11,000 lives in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.​ Read the stories of the fight against Ebola.

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The World Health Organization on May 9, 2015, declared Liberia free of Ebola transmission because no new cases had been reported for 42 days. The country continues to monitor illnesses and to test for Ebola.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a United Methodist, described the LCC as “champions of peace” for the effort toward containing and eradicating Ebola. “This award is meritorious and distinguished for your commendable acts of patriotism, which immensely strengthened the mutual cooperation between the Church and the State,” Sirleaf said.

Bishop John Innis of the Liberia Conference of The United Methodist Church thanked the president for recognizing the role the churches have played in fighting the Ebola crisis. He said the commitment of the churches to health, education and good governance in Liberia are the pillars that hold the churches together in the nation.

In a congratulatory message to the churches, the World Council of Churches acting general secretary Georges Lemopoulos called efforts by the Liberian churches “a sign of hope in the midst of the Ebola crisis.”

The Liberian Council of Churches, which includes member churches of the world council in Liberia, has been actively engaged in providing preventive awareness, contact tracing, food and material relief and medical supplies, including personal protective gear, to affected communities during the Ebola crisis. A number of LCC-affiliated partners ran health centers that provided immediate medical relief aid to Ebola victims.

“We are very aware of your advocacy, your coordination of member churches, your practical efforts and your witness of prayer during this deeply traumatic time for your country. We are proud to be a partner through accompaniment and celebrate this distinction being given to you,” said Lemopoulos in his letter addressed to Rev. Kortu K. Brown, acting president of the LCC.

“Your witness in this crisis has been an inspiration to the ecumenical movement beyond your country, a testimony to what can be accomplished as churches and ecumenical organizations working together in a time of need to serve those who suffer and are in fear,” Lemopoulos said.

Like neighboring Sierra Leone, Liberia still is dealing with the aftermath of the outbreak.

Schools have been in session but are about to close in keeping with the nation’s school calendar. Food still is short since the last farming year was disrupted by the Ebola crisis and farmers are still reeling from the trauma of the crisis.

Bishop Innis has declared that all of the safety measures put in by health workers and the government be followed by all United Methodists. As an example, sanitation buckets meant for hands washing still are present at schools and churches. People are reminding each other of the need to go slow on the cultural practice of shaking hands and hugging.

At the United Methodist Hospital in Ganta in Nimba County, northern Liberia, no one enters the facilities for any reason including treatment without going through screening.

*Swen is is a communicator for The United Methodist Church in Liberia.

News media contact: Vicki Brown, or 615-742-5400..