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Archbishop Justin Welby's Ebola video - transcript

Friday 28th November 2014

Read the transcript of Archbishop Justin Welby's video reflections on the Ebola outbreak and how churches are responding.

Watch the video

In the Ebola crisis we’re facing something that is extraordinarily unusual in our modern world, which has swept through people we know, value, care for, have a sense of responsibility, have partnered with very often.

This is a hidden thing. It just seems to come from nowhere, from anywhere, from anyone. You’re infected by the people you love most, and grieve for most – they are most dangerous to you when they’ve died. This is a challenge to the very heart of what it is to be human.

In the churches we live by community. It’s one of our key words: reconciliation, community, getting together – the Eucharist, the common table, sharing the love for one another that Christ gives us by his Spirit in the life of the church.

And Ebola strikes straight into the heart of that. Community suddenly becomes not a place of safety but a place of extreme danger.

So I think that how the churches grapple with this takes us right back to who Jesus is. To the love that goes well beyond anything reasonable and reaches to those who are struggling, who are dying, who are lost, who are in darkness. I think, from a recent trip in West Africa – not a country touched by Ebola – one of the things that struck me most forcefully was not merely the horrendous statistics, which are by themselves enormously important, but also the depth of the sorrow that comes with a disease that undercuts the key values of that part of the world. How do you treat the dying, how do you treat the dead, how do you show you love them, that you miss them, that you mourn them. It’s exactly the opposite of the way it has to be done there… with plastic bags, with chlorine sprays, with protective clothing, which are the essentials that the extraordinarily brave people who are involved in treatment are compelled to use.

So the urgency of this seems to me at its heart around the way that Ebola attacks those things that make us most human. And therefore it must most effectively be dealt with.

And I think because I’m someone who comes from a religious, a faith background, I’m not a medic, I don’t have the skills to understand this, I want to talk about one word in the international response and that word is fear.

Fear shuts borders to volunteers trying to go back to their own country. Fear quarantines them for 21 days when they’ve not been somewhere, in a place that gives any reason to be quarantined. We must go by the science, not by the fear. This is not a political, it is a scientific problem.

The role of the churches and other faith communities is absolutely crucial, you’ll see that they know what to do.

But the churches are under more pressure than one can imagine. They’re dealing with a quantity of bereaved people, of orphans, of widows, of those really emotionally traumatized to an extraordinary extent, at a scale that they are not easily able to do. They’re dealing with their own fears.

And I think therefore that for the churches we come back, as we always do as Christians, to prayer. To the person of Jesus Christ, who goes into the worst of all possible places, in the worst of all possible conditions, and does so through our hands and feet and eyes and ears. But also does so by his Spirit.

Prayer is something that is incomprehensible outside the church and essential within it. The church is called to be courageous but it will be courageous when it is prayerful. 

It remains to speak up about this. It remains to be in touch with people there, and that we are and are following through as effectively as we can. And as much as possible to be present with them. 

This video was produced in collaboration with the Anglican Alliance. Find out more about how Anglicans are responding to the Ebola crisis on the Anglican Alliance website 

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