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The Role Faith Plays in Rebuilding Sierra Leone Post-Ebola

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This November 7th will mark one year since Sierra Leone was officially declared Ebola-free. As you may recall, the deadly disease started spreading throughout the country in 2014 infecting over 14,000 people and killing nearly 4,000. Ebola left a devastating impact on the country’s population, infrastructure and economy. With the effects of the outbreak felt in many areas throughout the country, recovery over the past year has been heavily dependent on many factors, including faith. Faith played a vital role during the outbreak with both churches and mosques experiencing a boost in attendance. And it continues to play an important role as the country rebuilds itself post-Ebola. As we approach the one-year anniversary of Sierra Leone being declared Ebola-free, it is now more important than ever for us to re-examine the role of faith in the country. To begin, faith has a key role to play in Sierra Leone. In fact, each meeting begins with silent prayers no matter if one is Christian or Muslim. It is evident that the meeting won’t take place without the acknowledgement of God’s supremacy. There is also a peaceful co-existence between faiths in the country with both taking responsibility for sharing key messages about issues with their congregations and emphasizing working together against common “enemies” like Ebola. Faith is critical as the country faces a huge economic crisis. Before the outbreak, the county was experiencing double-digit annual GDP Growth, which plummeted from 20.9 percent in 2013 to 4.6 percent due to Ebola. During the outbreak, businesses shut down operations, mandatory quarantines left farm fields and crops unattended, out of country investors conducting trade in the region fled, and production came to a complete halt, leaving an already fragile workforce relying on external food and resources. That has made the last year of economic recovery vital for the country. The consensus in the country is that God saves. Churches and mosques were full during the Ebola outbreak and continue to remain active as the country continues to rebuild itself and battle this major economic crisis. Youth clubs from within the church are addressing social challenges like hunger, homelessness, working with orphans and street children. Women’s groups are holding hands with groups bringing in training on societal issues to influence positive change from God’s views. Sierra Leoneans acknowledge that Ebola was devastating, a true scourge, and they never saw it coming. They had experienced an 11-year civil war but had no idea that this type of sickness existed and it caught the country off guard. The presence of faith in this fragile economy and health system makes the difference between hopelessness and the willingness to continue another day. The general population remains ever hopeful that the God who brings rain, sun, another day will continue to bless through many means and direct improvement to His children. Faith spreads the message of compassion, love and acceptance. It also spreads the message of repair and redemption. From the Christian perspective, the country of Sierra Leone is a fertile planting ground – the knowledge of faith in Christ is very present but the understanding of the difference this faith makes on a personal level is critical to differentiate. As a country – faith is accepted and applauded but our Jehovah God is asking us to make a very personal individual commitment and without that, faith is just a nice window dressing. Ongoing issues will challenge this country – very high maternal and child mortality, a myriad of health issues, etc. but with faith in Christ as a true foundation, these challenges may be faced with confidence in God who saves.