Over the last several weeks, we have been getting daily, if not hourly updates on the spread of Ebola. More than 13,000 cases of Ebola have been diagnosed in West Africa and it is lapping our own shores. We can’t stop talking and wondering and worrying about our own safety, the safety of our families, the safety of our kids. We wonder how we can protect ourselves.
The answer is: by stopping the outbreak at its source. To beat Ebola, the healthcare and humanitarian sectors must be able to fly workers in and out of West Africa. We need to be able to treat those who are sick, care for our neighbors and educate those who are not on how they can protect themselves and stop the spread of the virus. Reducing access to the region or making it more difficult for volunteers to come home would only impede the ability to respond, and fuel the epidemic’s growth.
Martin Luther once wrote a letter to a pastor who had asked about the ethics of fleeing from the plague, which killed as much as half the population of Europe during the Middle Ages. In it he wrote:
No one should dare leave his neighbor unless there are others who will take care of the sick in their stead and nurse them. In such cases we must respect the word of Christ, “I was sick and you did not visit me…” According to this passage we are bound to each other in such a way that no one may forsake the other in his distress but is obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped.
Luther was clear: our neighbor needs us. And we need our neighbor.
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And by neighbor I don’t just mean the people next door, or even in our own country. In this shrinking and interconnected world we increasingly need to realize that everyone is our neighbor. The people of Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone – these are our neighbors.
Last week, President Obama recognized medical professionals who have recently returned home after working with Ebola patients in West Africa, fighting the virus on the front lines of the epidemic. “They do this for no other reason than their own sense of duty. Their sense of purpose. Their sense of serving a cause greater than themselves,” he said.
Many of these brave doctors, nurses and humanitarian aid workers are people of faith, and for them they are truly answering the call of Christ to help those who are sick and in need.
I know many of you are worried about the disease spreading here in the states and putting loved ones at risk. It’s understandable. But we need to put our fear aside, trust God, and do all we can to support the brave people who are willing to go to help stop this horrible sickness at its source. And in the end, this is also the best way to protect us here at home.