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A Greek priest at the epicentre of the Ebola epidemic

06 August 2014 / 16:08:16  GRReporter
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The deadly Ebola virus has spread to the Orthodox mission in Freetown in Sierra Leone, which is led by former member of a rock band and now Orthodox priest Themistoklis Adamopoulos or Themi Adams.

Father Themi participated in an Australian rock band in his youth and was even on stage along with legendary rock bands such as The Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Later, however, he decided to become a missionary in West Africa and is now facing the biggest challenge of his life, the Ebola virus.

Greek information website presented an interview with the priest that he gave last Saturday to screenwriter Wid Bastian for ASSIST News Service media. He knows Father Themi well as he is a member of a team writing the screenplay for a film inspired by the personal story of the priest.

The interview was disseminated in Greece by the religious website. The priest describes in it the fear and panic due to the Ebola epidemic and calls for help for the African country stricken by the virus.

"This country has very much been reduced to trauma. Sierra Leone is a resilient nation that has suffered consistently since 1991. I cannot imagine another country that has suffered so much over such a long time, both through wars, poverty, and now through this epidemic."

"Sierra Leone has suddenly become the epicentre of Ebola which was previously centred in Guinea. But through our common borders that we have a lot of people with Ebola have come to Sierra Leone to look for relatives or help and then gone back. But in the meantime, they have brought the virus to the country," he adds.

According to the priest, the situation after the beginning of the epidemic is extremely difficult even compared to the destructive civil war. "The Ebola virus is an invisible enemy. It is like an invisible killer that strikes and you do not know where and when. The situation is more difficult compared to the time of the Civil War. Then you could hear the falling bombs, you could see the enemy and therefore you could try and take some kind of reactive action but we do not know what to do with the virus."

"We have learnt from the World Health Organisation that this Ebola crisis is now out of control and many communities, including ours, have sent out an SOS for help from around the world. Unfortunately, the medical infrastructure in the three countries hit by the virus is very poor. I would even say that the best hospital here is similar to a very small American rural hospital."

"The second problem is the lack of awareness of the Ebola virus among people, which is why many of them do not realize what is happening. I started to talk to them about it three months ago, telling them that the virus is coming, that they must be careful, stop touching other people, take precautions, wash their hands constantly, wear gloves if possible, and they just laughed."

"Another problem is black magic. Unfortunately, it is in the DNA of the people from West Africa. You may not know it, but voodoo practices in Haiti actually originated here, in this part of Africa. They came to America when the slaves were taken to the New World to work for their masters and we now have the doll with the pins and needles, which is the witch gun."

"The problem is that a lot of people suffering from Ebola, instead of going to a relatively modern hospital to seek help, have turned to their local witch doctor or herbalist, and of course they can do nothing. As a result those persons die and contaminate all the people around them."

"Even quite educated people here do not trust doctors, especially when it comes to Western medicine. They believe that doctors can kill them, although they have taken the Hippocratic Oath and want to save lives." According to the priest, the people of Sierra Leone are afraid when they see a doctor wearing a mask and gloves, with a syringe in hand, and believe that the needle is full of poison that can kill them.

He also says that because of the many deaths in Freetown the authorities have imposed a "moratorium on movement" in the city. "The President has asked for a moratorium and restrictions on the movement of people. Police patrolling the streets and the army are the only ones allowed to go out in the street on foot or in vehicles. What is interesting from a religious point of view is that the President has called on all in Sierra Leone to fast and pray on Monday." In his words, however, the authorities find it difficult to prevent some of the people who suffer from polio or amputees from going out in the streets to beg.

Father Themi Adams adds, "We are a Christian organisation. We believe in God, we believe in the power of God, so whatever we do we always pray. Every day we have a church ceremony, and, when we have the opportunity, we take the cross around our churches and we pray to our Lord to protect the people and the city."

The priest also notes that the members of the organisation have a great need for food and medical supplies. "This is a call for a container of food. Why? To be able to feed the people every day so they stop going out in the street to beg. We also need medical supplies, disposable gloves, facemasks, disinfectants, chlorinated water, chlorine tablets. Due to bureaucratic problems here, it is best to send money so we can buy all these things."

Finally, the priest points out, "This is happening in West Africa now but it can happen in European countries, the United States and other countries. Ebola is no longer just a problem in West Africa, it is a global one."

Tags: SocietyEbola virusEpidemicWest AfricaSierra LeoneGreek priest
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