As a mass quarantine continued in Wuhan and surrounding provinces in China, church leaders from around the world called for accurate information and education, as well as a sense of solidarity related to the coronavirus outbreak.
The death toll in China has surpassed 600, and the number of confirmed cases is now more than 31,000. There are also more than 200 cases of infection outside China.
“As part of one body of humanity, we suffer together, with those affected by this outbreak. Our prayers and thoughts are with the millions of people who have been impacted. We remember the persons who have passed away and their bereaving families; the people who are suffering from the infection, and their family members; and the healthcare workers who are serving the communities selflessly,” reflected Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC). “We are deeply inspired by Christians in China, who are playing a vital role at the forefront to overcome the disease.”
Rev. Dr Manhong Melissa Lin, associate general secretary, China Christian Council and member of the WCC Executive Committee said: “We appreciate the prayers and solidarity we are receiving during this challenging time. Christians in China have actively joined the struggle to overcome the virus by praying; contributing funds, masks and medical supplies; and following closely the medical advice of taking preventive steps. We trust that with the joint efforts from all sectors of society in China and with support from the international communities, and by the grace of God, we shall overcome this crisis.”
Church leaders worldwide expressed their intent to stand with the leaders of churches and councils of churches in northeast Asia, as they have appealed for prayer and decisive action from their congregations who are facing the outbreak. “In that same spirit, it is vital that faith communities and leaders depend on reliable and up-to-date information, and share it, not succumbing to misinformation and contributing to panic. This is a new disease, and much is yet to be known. It is our responsibility to keep alert, updated and engaged,” said Dr Manoj Kurian, coordinator of the WCC Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.
WCC deputy general secretary Prof Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri observed: "While we take care to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to prevent the spread of the epidemic, we have to remember that fear and bigotry travel more rapidly than the virus. Faith communities need to challenge individuals and the wider society to overcome stigma, xenophobia, persecution and discrimination of people who are suspected to be affected by the disease.”
Dr Mwai Makoka, WCC programme executive for Health and Healing, said: "We as churches and communities are called to pray for and practice appropriate preventive measures in communities; cooperate with the health workers and public health officials; and support and advocate for the rapid development of necessary treatments and vaccines. This epidemic comes in the context of many existing health challenges and epidemics. We have to ensure that countries that have weaker health systems are supported to be equipped and prepared to make sure that outbreaks are contained, when they occur.”
For more information on coronavirus
Letter of the Hong Kong Christian Council on the coronavirus