Liberians fast, pray for three days to break Ebola "curse"

by Reuters
Thursday, 30 October 2014 14:55 GMT

(Corrects paragraph 7 to make clear Senegal, not Sierra Leone, was declared Ebola free)

MONROVIA, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Liberians began three days of fasting and prayers on Wednesday to seek salvation from the "curse" of the Ebola epidemic, which has killed 2,705 people and infected 4,665 more in the West African country.

The National Christian Ebola Task Force, an organisation formed in September by different Christian denominations, urged Liberians to fast from dawn-to-dusk over the next three days.

"Ebola is a virus from the devil. It's killing us because we have turned our back to God," Reverend David G. Benitoe, a representative of the task force, told a news conference.

"We have traded the worship of God with the worship of demons and witchcraft, and evil stuff is now happening in this country," Benitoe said.

Liberia is the country hardest-hit by the worst outbreak on record of the viral haemorrhagic fever, which is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids of those infected.

In total, the epidemic has killed nearly 5,000 people and infected some 13,703 people since it was first reported in Guinea in March.

The disease has spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Nigeria, with Mali becoming this month the sixth West Africa nation touched by the outbreak. Nigeria and Senegal have now been declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization.

Isolated cases have also been reported in Spain and the United States.

This month, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told Reuters her government had detected the first signs of an easing in the epidemic as public awareness of the disease improved.

The WHO also said on Wednesday there were indications it was slowing, with falls in the number of burials, new admissions and a plateau in laboratory-confirmed cases.

About 85 percent of Liberia's 4 million people are Christians, while about 12 percent are Muslims. Since the beginning of the outbreak, Liberians have packed churches on Sunday, singing and praying for deliverance.

Thousands of mobile phone subscribers received text messages on their phones on Wednesday asking them to take part.

"I have the faith that after Friday things will not be the same in Liberia with Ebola," said Mary Freeman, who attends the Faith Healing Temple of Jesus Christ of Monrovia, adding that she had started fasting on Wednesday morning.

"The Lord has taken pre-eminence over our situation."

Benitoe said the fast and prayer will be concluded on Friday with prayers and communion services across the country, but because Ebola is highly infectious, people would have to avoid touching one another during the communion.

"No one is going to be serving the communion. You will have you buy your own communion elements. Bread and wine or biscuit and non-alcoholic wine or red juice," he said. (Reporting by James Harding Giahyue in Monrovia and Bate Felix in Dakar; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Catherine Evans)

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