Liberia

In the wake of Ebola, New York Times explores Liberia's 'crisis of faith'

In the wake of Ebola, New York Times explores Liberia's 'crisis of faith'

This was the top headline on the front page of Sunday's New York Times:

Liberia Conquers Ebola, But Faces a Crisis of Faith

The Times reports on churches, which helped spread the virus by laying hands on victims during prayers, fighting to come back:

MONROVIA, Liberia — It decimated hospitals, schools, families, fortunes and, for many, even their faith.
Now, it is officially over. The Ebola outbreak has ended in Liberia, the World Health Organization announced Saturday, an enormous milestone that seemed impossibly far off last year when dead bodies blocked roads and the sick prayed for ambulances that never came.
Desperately, the country is trying to rebuild just about everything, from its health and education systems to its economy and international image.
But in the dim hall of the United God Is Our Light Church, its generator turned off to shave costs, the congregation has been trying to repair something more fundamental: its spirit.
“Some of you are thinking that this church will die,” the church secretary, Joseph Vayombo, recently shouted in the small Pentecostal church here, no longer able to contain his frustration at all the empty seats around him. “There are people here who want this church to die.”
The large circle of plastic chairs inevitably drew attention to the low attendance at Friday morning prayer, a monthly gathering intended to bring together a church torn asunder by Ebola. Three, four, sometimes half a dozen empty seats separated the attendees from one another.

In Ebola's wake, the faith angle is certainly important.

Credit the Times for recognizing that and giving this story prominent attention.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Five glimpses of faith in Time's story on 'The Ebola Fighters' as 2014 Person of the Year

Five glimpses of faith in Time's story on 'The Ebola Fighters' as 2014 Person of the Year

Is there a religion angle on Time magazine's selection of "The Ebola Fighters" as the 2014 Person of the Year?

 

In her explanation of the selection, Time Editor Nancy Gibbs notes:

Ask what drove them and some talk about God; some about country; some about the instinct to run into the fire, not away. “If someone from America comes to help my people, and someone from Uganda,” says Iris Martor, a Liberian nurse, “then why can’t I?” Foday Gallah, an ambulance driver who survived infection, calls his immunity a holy gift. “I want to give my blood so a lot of people can be saved,” he says. “I am going to fight Ebola with all of my might.”
MSF nurse’s assistant Salome Karwah stayed at the bedsides of patients, bathing and feeding them, even after losing both her parents—who ran a medical clinic—in a single week and surviving Ebola herself. “It looked like God gave me a second chance to help others,” she says. Tiny children watched their families die, and no one could so much as hug them, because hugs could kill. “You see people facing death without their loved ones, only with people in space suits,” says MSF president Dr. Joanne Liu. “You should not die alone with space-suit men.”

Likewise, Time's in-depth story on "The ones who answered the call" reflects the key role of faith, starting right up top:

On the outskirts of Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, on grassy land among palm trees and tropical hardwoods, stands a cluster of one-story bungalows painted cheerful yellow with blue trim. This is the campus of Eternal Love Winning Africa, a nondenominational Christian mission, comprising a school, a radio station and a hospital. It was here that Dr. Jerry Brown, the hospital’s medical director, first heard in March that the fearsome Ebola virus had gained a toehold in his country. Patients with the rare and deadly disease were turning up at a clinic in Lofa County—part of the West African borderlands where Liberia meets Guinea and Sierra Leone. “It was then that we really started panicking,” says Brown.

 

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Prayers in Liberia: One strange note in riveting WPost trip inside Ebola zone

Prayers in Liberia: One strange note in riveting WPost trip inside Ebola zone

I have said this many times, but I have nothing but admiration for the reporters who work in war zones and in lands ravaged by disasters of all kinds.

It's hard enough for reporters, when covering complex issues, to do adequate background research and keep their facts straight -- even under the best of circumstances. My church-state issue file folder (yes, materials on dead tree pulp) is almost 40 years old. I have hundreds of similar files and I need them.

So imagine that you are in Liberia and trying to cover the Ebola outbreak, with all of its scientific, political, medical, ethical and legal implications. Yes, and issues of racial equality and economic justice. Yes, and there are religion ghosts, as well. Oh, and let's not forget the risk of face-to-face reporting at scenes in the heart of the crisis?

Thus, the first thing I want to say about a recent Washington Post report (headline: "Liberia already had only a few dozen of its own doctors. Then came Ebola") is that it is stunning and a must-read look at the lives of those with the courage to walk the halls of hospitals and treat the sick and dying in Monrovia, Liberia. How, exactly, does one take careful interview notes when wearing a full-protection hazmat suit?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

How to write a sensationalistic headline: 'Can these Texas churches survive Ebola?'

How to write a sensationalistic headline: 'Can these Texas churches survive Ebola?'

"Daily Beast stupidity," said the email's subject line.

"I realize this headline might just be dramatic on purpose, but seriously: The church is not a business or something," the tipster wrote to GetReligion.

The headline in question (cue the dramatic music):

Can These Texas Churches Survive Ebola?

And the subhead:

The virus appears to be contained within a Dallas hospital for now, but concerns are spreading fast through local parishes, where congregants may have personal experience with Ebola’s deadly toll.

Clickbait, anyone?

Granted, we at GetReligion have acknowledged our struggle to determine the dividing line between The Daily Beast's progressive advocacy and its news coverage. In this case, the story — unlike the headline — is actually pretty informational and even-keeled.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

A medical miracle on NBC News: 'The hand of God at work' in saving Ebola patient Dr. Kent Brantly

A medical miracle on NBC News: 'The hand of God at work' in saving Ebola patient Dr. Kent Brantly

The hour-long NBC News special "Saving Dr. Brantly: The Inside Story of a Medical Miracle" aired Friday night.

The report by NBC's Matt Lauer features an exclusive interview with Dr. Kent Brantly, who contracted the often-deadly Ebola virus while serving as a medical missionary in Liberia.

It's an incredible piece of journalism that includes additional reflections from Brantly's wife Amber, Samaritan's Purse CEO Franklin Graham and doctors and nurses involved in his care at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. 

As the special begins, Lauer emphasizes that Brantly's faith will play a major role in this story:

He may be one of the luckiest men alive, and Dr. Kent Brantly probably thinks there are two very good reasons for that.
He attributes his victory over the deadly Ebola virus to a combination of faith and science. 
As a devout Christian and a physician, he’s a man of both.
He was serving as a missionary doctor in Liberia when he became infected, and tonight in an NBC News exclusive, Dr. Brantly and the brave medical team that helped to save his life tell for the first time the extraordinary story of how he was cured.

Seconds later, Lauer begins delving into Brantly's faith.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

It's a 'miraculous day' for Ebola patient Dr. Kent Brantly, but what role did prayer play?

It's a 'miraculous day' for Ebola patient Dr. Kent Brantly, but what role did prayer play?

Here at GetReligion, we frequently refer to holy ghosts.

Holy ghosts are important religious elements of news stories that often go unnoticed or unmentioned by the mass media.

In watching today's news conference on the release of Ebola patient Dr. Kent Brantly from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, the faith angle was impossible to miss.

“Today is a miraculous day," Brantly said. "I’m thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family.”

He also said: "I can tell you, I serve a faithful God who answers prayers. … God saved my life, a direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers.”

Just a few weeks ago, after Brantly contracted the often-deadly virus while serving as a medical missionary in Liberia, a fellow doctor characterized his prognosis as "grave." But "thousands, even millions" of people around the world prayed for him, Brantly said at the news conference.

But will Brantly's focus on prayer make it into news reports?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

General Butt Naked and God in Der Spiegel

Let me commend for your reading a story in last week’s Der Spiegel on the Liberian war lord General Butt Naked. The article in its English-language version entitled “The Penitant Warlord: Atoning for 20,000 War Crimes” recounts the war crimes of Joshua Milton Blahyi and his subsequent transformation into a priest.

Please respect our Commenting Policy