Baptists in West Africa have created task forces, promoted educational campaigns and closed schools in response to the spread of Ebola—a regional health crisis that has claimed more than 900 lives.
The Baptist Convention of Sierra Leone has created the Baptist Ebola Task Force “to coordinate the sensitization of Ebola outbreak in its various churches and other public places.”
Samuel Conteh, coordinator of social ministries for the Sierra Leone convention, told Baptist World Alliance officials, “Churches are being gradually provided with sanitization plastic buckets with chlorine tablets.”
The BWA sent an initial $5,000 to Sierra Leone to assist in a public education campaign about the disease.
Although the education efforts have borne fruit, Conteh added: “Church attendances are dwindling. Baptist activities are being slowed down, particularly in (the) epicenters. The traditional embracing and handshake among members after church service have disappeared.”
The Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention used mass text messaging to urge Baptist churches to “commit to all the preventive practices that have been advanced by the health experts as well as the government of Liberia on this deadly disease.”
Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ordered all schools to close indefinitely, including Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary and two Baptist-affiliated secondary schools, Ricks Institute and the Lott Carey Mission School.
“We are gravely concerned over the outbreak of this lethal disease and the protection of persons in our West Africa region,” the Liberian convention statement said.
They expressed concern that “hospitals and medical clinics around Liberia have been abandoned because of the alarming death of health care providers and the lack of adequate protective gears and hygienic items. The abandonment of hospitals and medical clinics is critical since it is suspected now that many people are dying from other curable illnesses in additional to Ebola causes.”
At least one Liberian Baptist, a nurse, died after she attended to an infected patient. Alice Paasewe served at the Phebe Referral Hospital in central Liberia.