When Ebola ravaged West Africa in 2014, it was local churches that helped lead the fightback.
In Sierra Leone, Christians used video and radio broadcasts to spread vital health messages. Tearfund trained pastors and gave them phones so they could call people with Ebola. The pastors spoke to them and prayed with them over the phone. In this way they could offer support without risking infection.
Churches gave practical help to people in quarantine (that is, kept in isolation for a period to ensure they would not infect others). Church members provided food, water and toiletries.
Church leaders spoke in their services about not stigmatising people with Ebola. In some communities, people who recovered from Ebola were rejected when they came back from the treatment centres. The Church held community meetings to help the local people to accept them again.
And the Church played as important a role in tackling the more recent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which appears to be coming to an end after 19 months.
Tearfund and our local church partner reached more than 350,000 people with important messages about how to prevent, identify and respond to Ebola.
There are five key principles we’ll be sharing with our network of local church partners around the world in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.
These include promoting the right messages to prevent its spread, correcting any lies and misinformation about the disease, caring for and looking out for congregations, having an answer for tough theological questions about why the Coronavirus has happened, and praying for an end to the outbreak.
The Church – in all its various guises and denominations – is the largest civil organisation on the planet. In every community affected by Coronavirus in the UK there will be a Christian presence – whether they’re meeting together on a Sunday or not. Who better to make a difference in this time of need?
‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’ (Matthew 5:13-16)
Perhaps this crisis is a once-in-a-generation chance for the Church to show the world its saltiness. A chance to shine brightly so that all may see.
- Pray for comfort for people around the world who have lost loved ones to the Coronavirus, and healing for those who are sick.
- Ask God to give strength to those who are caring for people who are ill, and that they will be protected from becoming infected themselves.
- Lift up your own church congregation in prayer and ask God how he’s calling you to respond.
In response to Coronavirus, Archbishop Justin Welby, Gavin Calver and others are calling Christians to come together in prayer and action this Sunday (22 March). Please join by praying, lighting a candle in your window and reaching out to someone who is vulnerable.