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In Sierra Leone, Religion Major Player in Ebola Fight

People are seen praying at St. Paul's Congregational Evangelical Church, Freetown, Sierra Leone, April 26, 2015. (N. deVries/VOA)

Ebola cases are continuing their downward trend in Sierra Leone. The progress is attributed in part to religious leaders who have helped by educating people in their churches and mosques.

Sierra Leone is a religious country, but what makes it somewhat unique is its religious tolerance. Muslims and Christians respect each other’s beliefs.

Now, religious leaders are taking things a step further by working together to eradicate Ebola.

In mosques and churches, the leaders are taking examples from the Bible and Quran to teach people about Ebola prevention.

The idea came from a local organization called "Focus 1000." It recognized the importance of working with well-respected and trusted faith leaders.

Reverend Christiana Sutton-Koroma says people were reluctant to accept the importance of Ebola quarantine until it was explained in church.

“That is one key thing the scripture tells us, in (the book of) Leviticus, that when somebody is infected with an infectious skin disease that that individual and community should be quarantined,” said Sutton-Koroma.

In the case of Ebola, a quarantine is necessary as the virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids. When Reverend Sutton-Koroma explained this citing the Bible and pointing how it relates to Ebola, people started to listen.

The religious references are helping raise awareness, said Lamaratu Kamara, who attends Sutton-Koroma’s church.

“I have seen it (change) a lot in my community, and thanks be to God that we are all taking precaution,” said Kamara.

Dr. Ramadan Jalloh, Imam at Jam'iyatul Haq mosque, Freetown, Sierra Leone, May 10, 2015. (N. deVries/VOA)
Dr. Ramadan Jalloh, Imam at Jam'iyatul Haq mosque, Freetown, Sierra Leone, May 10, 2015. (N. deVries/VOA)

Dr. Ramadan Jalloh, an imam in Freetown, was taking examples from the Quran to preach about Ebola in his mosque.

“Islam has warned against anything that will endanger the life of an individual, so if you are going to wash [a] body and touch a body and that is going to cause to leading a problem, then Islam is warning against such an act,” said Jalloh.

The aid agency World Vision is doing similar work with faith leaders across the country. World Vision National Director Leslie Scott says it is because of the religious tolerance the leaders have been able to work so well together.

“If you can credit Sierra Leone for one thing, you can credit it for religious tolerance, and I hope the world will learn from Sierra Leone that Christians and Muslims can live together and do great things, like we have just done with Ebola, fighting Ebola together as one,” said Scott.

Ebola has killed more than 3,000 people in Sierra Leone since the virus began spreading here almost a year ago.