Following the recent catastrophic mudslide, our prayers and support for the people of Freetown are much needed, writes Revd Canon Ian Hutchinson Cervantes, World Mission Officer for the Diocese of Chichester.
For fifty years, the dioceses of Freetown, Sierra Leone and Chichester, England have been bound in a relationship of companionship and friendship. Parishes and schools in both dioceses have established links which have involved visits, correspondence, prayer and cooperation in educational and poverty combating projects.
The Diocese of Chichester played a modest but not insignificant part in the reconstruction efforts following Sierra Leone’s vicious civil war (1991 to 2002). This conflict, which killed 50,000 people and forced some 2 million to seek refuge in neighbouring countries, also devastated the country’s infrastructure and economy: hospitals, schools and churches were burned, demolished or left useless by wanton looting and vandalism.
“the impact of sudden death on the scale seen in the last days will be devastating for the survivors”
In 2014, West Africa saw itself facing the largest outbreak of Ebola in recorded history. Sierra Leone was one of the three nations having to cope with an “invisible enemy” whose presence was only recognisable when people found themselves fighting for their lives. Again, the Diocese of Chichester rose to the challenge and gave generously to projects aimed at educating people on Ebola prevention, food relief to those in quarantine and so on. Nevertheless, much of the post-civil war recovery was undermined and Sierra Leone’s journey out of poverty will be a long one.
“join us in praying for our sisters and brothers in Freetown”
The landslide in the Regent area of Freetown, therefore, is perceived as yet one more in a series of national disasters. In a culture where family and tribe are central to people’s self-understanding and thus a means of tempering economic vulnerability, the impact of sudden death on the scale seen in the last days will be devastating for the survivors.
Bishop Thomas Wilson has asked for our prayers to be focussed on the following prayer points:
"Prayers for those still missing, victims in hospitals, wisdom to cope with the situation, provision for the diocese to make (a) meaningful intervention..."
We in the Diocese of Chichester invite you to join us in praying for our sisters and brothers in Freetown. We hope, too, to provide some of the resourcing our Companion Diocese will require as it seeks to keep faith with Christ’s command to love.
Revd Canon Ian Hutchinson Cervantes, World Mission Officer, Diocese of Chichester and Rector of Nuthurst and Mannings Heath.
The Bishop of Chichester has sent a message to his fellow Bishop in Sierra Leone from his retreat in France.assuring him of prayers and support from the diocese of Chichester. He said: "We will do all we can to assist you in this time of loss and as you seek to rebuild homes and livelihood."
FROM BBC NEWS
Sierra Leonean journalist and Freetown resident Umaru Fofana reflects on the disaster here