With so many pressing issues ... American Christians might be tempted to turn away from Africa, Parham says. (Image courtesy of hyena reality/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Baptist World Alliance leader Olu Menjay issued an urgent call for prayer about the spreading Ebola virus in West Africa, underscoring the deaths of more than 600 people mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
"The Ebola virus is serious! Our daily social and cultural practices make it so difficult to follow medical instructions to prevent the continuous spread of this lethal virus," said Menjay, president of the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention and vice president of the Baptist World Alliance.
His letter noted that Liberia was still recovering from more than 20 years of armed conflict.
"We struggle each day for the very basic needs of life, clean water, food and opportunities for a better existence. As a nation recovering from war, we have an inadequate medical and social infrastructure to address this medical catastrophe," the letter read.
Days earlier, Emile D.E. Sam-Peal, superintendent/principal of the Lott Carey Baptist Mission School in Liberia, called the Ebola situation "frightening."
In an interview with QcityMetro, an African-American news provider in Charlotte, North Carolina, Sam-Peal said, "In the midst of a health crisis, no investor wants to go in and invest in the nation, so we're praying and looking for the international community to come to the aid of the country to help us contain this Ebola virus."
The New York Times editorial board addressed on Tuesday the epidemic.
"Doctors Without Borders has described the Ebola epidemic sweeping across West Africa as 'out of control.' The Ebola virus, which is fatal in 90 percent of cases, has killed more than 670 people in West Africa and spread to 60 locations in four countries. The obstacles to bringing the virus under control are formidable, among them a shortage of medical resources and resistance from local communities terrified by a disease they do not understand," the Times said.
"The current Ebola outbreak is more than a sum of national emergencies. It is now a regional crisis, and the whole of West Africa must act to contain it," the editorial read.
Ken Isaacs, vice president for government relations for Samaritan's Purse, called on U.S. and European support in an earlier Times column.
"I call on the international community and the donor governments of the world, particularly in Europe and the United States, to step in and recognize the very limited capacities of the ministries of health in West Africa and to help them contain this disease," he wrote.
"A disaster has descended upon West Africa, and it deserves the full attention of the international community. The world's deadliest and most contagious disease is on a collision course with millions in major population centers," Isaacs said. "The situation is urgent. There is no time to wait."
Urgent words from multiple sources underscore the magnitude of the spreading epidemic, one that challenges houses of faith to pray for West Africa and governments to act.
With so many pressing issues--the Middle East, Ukraine, the flood of undocumented children into the U.S.--American Christians might be tempted to turn away from Africa.
Let's hope, instead, we find a way to cross the road to help our neighbors in urgent need.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.