Photo: Local Mennonite church members and MWC leaders pray for the global Anabaptist family at the Renewal 2027 event in April 2019 in San Heredia, Costa Rica. Photo by Ebenezer Mondez/MWC
Following the World Health Organization’s declaration of the novel coronavirus (nCoV) outbreak as a global health emergency, Mennonite World Conference (MWC) is calling on Anabaptist and Mennonite congregations around the world to unite in prayer and to exercise precautionary measures in the church.
“Pray for people who are isolated, afraid or ill, especially in Wuhan, Hubei Province, and mainland China,” says César García, MWC general secretary. “Pray for wisdom for Chinese government and health authorities working to contain the outbreak, and for courage, compassion and safety for healthcare workers who work tirelessly to save lives.”
MWC also calls for prayer for wisdom for all governments and health authorities working to prevent the spread of the virus, that they act with compassion and caution.
In line with the World Health Organization’s Jan. 30 declaration, MWC encourages churches to practice the following precautions when illness is circulating:
- Announce the importance of frequent handwashing with water and soap, especially after toilet visits, before and after eating, and upon contact with someone who is unwell. If passing of germs becomes a serious concern, encourage greeting each other without physical contact, by waving, nodding or bowing to each other.
- Take temperature prior to leaving the house, especially for children. Anyone with a fever of at least 99.5 degrees should rest at home.
- Wear a surgical mask or N95 respirator in the event of a sore throat, cough or runny nose but need to visit the church.
- Set aside a first aid room for churchgoers who are found to be unwell during the service.
- Apply food hygiene policy. Encourage everyone who handles food to wear gloves and mask while cooking and distributing food.
There are now positive cases in 25 countries. The outbreak has not only caused disruption of businesses, school activities and travels, but has also caused panic. In some countries, surgical masks, N95 respirators and hand sanitizers are in short supply due to hoarding. Declining visitors at tourist attractions, shopping malls, theaters and restaurants causes economic pressure. Additionally, people of Asian background may experience racist slurs in other countries.
In the face of rumours, misinformation, or stereotyping, MWC calls upon congregations to exercise critical thinking and avoid sharing unconfirmed news.
“Fear perpetrated by misinformation about the disease is spreading faster than the virus itself,” says MWC Deacons Commission secretary Henk Stenvers. “This not only causes unnecessary panic, it also adds a burden of education to an already overworked health system.”
Says García, “Jesus told his disciples: ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you…. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid’ (John 14:27). Each day, may we remember that God walks with us in the midst of difficult circumstances.”
More resources on pandemic response: