According to the World Health Organization, the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa was the “largest, most severe and most complex Ebola epidemic” in history. More than 28,000 were infected and over 11,000 people died before the international public health emergency ended in June 2016, with most cases occurring in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia
In the midst of the crisis, World Vision staff worked to prevent the spread of the virus
by monitoring temperatures and distributing hygiene kits. Those who were infected were offered potentially life-saving treatments and loved ones were given a safe and proper burial.
Knowing that people of faith would turn to church leadership for clarity in times of confusion, Channels of Hope
—a program that informs and empowers faith leaders to communicate about important issues—was employed in Sierra Leone.
Alhaji Mustapha Alpha Koker, Chief Imam of the Bo district and Rev. Peter Kainwo, Pastor of the United Brethren in Christ Church teamed up to teach Ebola prevention to their congregations, building bridges and saving many lives in the process. Photo: Sahr Ngaujah
From that first training session, one Pastor and one Imam teamed up to teach Ebola prevention to their congregations: Rev. Peter Kainwo, Pastor of the United Brethren in Christ Church, and Alhaji Mustapha Alpha Koker, Chief Imam of the Bo district.
“At first, people denied that Ebola was real, believing that it was some sort of rumour or political agenda,” says Pastor Kainwo. Even some other religious leaders were spreading misinformation. The two clerics knew they needed to do something. Even more so, they knew they needed to work together.
So, how did they get their congregation’s attention? “We swapped pulpits,” Pastor Kainwo says.
Rev. Peter Kainwo speaks to congregants at the Bo district mosque with Alhaji Mustapha Alpha Koker, Chief Imam. Through Channels of Hope, the pair teamed up to teach Ebola prevention to their congregations. Photo: Sahr Ngaujah
It worked. The Christian and Muslim communities appreciated the wake-up call. But more importantly, they changed their behaviour: washing hands and practising safe burials.
This act of bold teamwork prevented many cases from spreading and gave families the closure they deserved when burying their loved ones.
According to Imam Koker, “Channels of Hope gave us the opportunity to prove what we could do as religious leaders for this country.”
Both clerics recognize the combined efforts weren’t just about belief, but about brotherhood. “Doctrine divides, but service unites,” Pastor Kainwo says. “We didn’t come together just to discuss our beliefs. We came together to work and help save lives.”
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