, 22 April, 2020 / 4:07 AM
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected at least 1042 people in Ghana and caused the deaths of nine, a Prelate in the West African nation has appealed to the citizens not to stigmatize those who have fallen victim to the disease.
“No one takes upon himself or herself this sickness. This sickness has no regard for whether you are old or young, rich or poor, a believer or non-believer; educated or not, we all are at risk. That is why we must be merciful to those who have fallen victim to the sickness. Caution, yes, but not stigmatization,” Archbishop John Bonaventure Kwofie of Accra said April 19.
“This stigmatization is building up in our country against those who have fallen victim to Coronavirus and their families. Why do we despise them?” Archbishop Kwofie probed during the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday held at the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Accra.
While quoting the Gospel of Matthew, the Archbishop of Accra urged the faithful to practice the acts of mercy saying, “When I was hungry, you gave me to eat; thirsty you gave me to drink, stranger you made me welcome, lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick you visited me, in prison you came to see me. These are all works of mercy that all of us, with no exemption, are called to do.”
“We get bogged down in practicing the externals of our Christian faith and we forget inner qualities that really matter: love, faithfulness, justice, courage, honesty and mercy,” the Prelate said adding, “the danger we daily run in our Christian life is to focus on the externals.”
He continued, “Humanity is at its best when we come together to fight a good cause. We are at our best when we suffer with those who suffer or rejoice with those who rejoice. Humanity is at its best in our ability to empathize, to enter into the feeling of the other and then give the necessary and appropriate response.”
“This is what brings love and builds understanding amongst people and promotes unity and constructs the culture of peace,” the Local Ordinary of Accra said.
Further, the Prelate urged the faithful to seek for God’s mercy “as we suffer the ravages of Coronavirus and other unimaginable sicknesses (such as cerebrospinal meningitis).”
He encouraged turning to God and crying “out like the blind man of Jericho, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me’” (Mk 10:47).
“In our hopelessness, anxiety, helplessness, despair and when the going gets difficult for us, we cry to Him like the Psalmist, ‘Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,’” he said and added, “Overwhelmed by our sinfulness and unworthiness, we turn to God, like the tax-collector, and without daring to raise our eyes to heaven, we pray ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’”
The 61-year-old Spiritan Prelate also appreciated the aid given by individuals and groups towards the needy during these difficult times.
“It is heart-warming to see sympathies expressed in many ways, donations given to fight the virus. Through these fraternal and generous gestures, we intensify and strengthen the one brotherhood of humanity at war against a common enemy,” he said.
The Ghanaian Prelate also urged his compatriots to heed to the government directives in the fight against COVID-19 and stay home, stay safe, wash their hands regularly, use hand sanitizer, wear face masks and endeavor to be each brother’s or sister’s keeper.
Meanwhile, speaking on Lumen Christi, a Catholic TV program on April 19, Archbishop Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle of Cape Coast stressed that COVID-19 was not a death sentence and urged the media to focus more on the positives than the negatives of the pandemic.
“COVID-19 was not the devil’s punishment as some have purported,” he said, telling Ghanaians to generally ask themselves what they can do to help the nation in the face of the pandemic.
“We must be ready as citizens to help protect people against the COVID-19,” Archbishop Palmer-Buckle said.
According to the Prelate “COVID-19 must breed a positive virus of love, care, sharing, honesty, selflessness and hard work to revolutionize the world to care for the needy and vulnerable, while all work in harmony to change the world for the best.”
The 69-year-old Archbishop further said that the outbreak of the pandemic should be the time for families to take time to bond together during the lockdown as Jesus Christ did with His disciples, saying, “For once, we are compelled to live together as a family, so let us make it home not a house.”
While advising Ghanaians to ensure a fair mix of spirituality by dedicating themselves to prayer, Archbishop Palmer-Buckle appealed to them to adhere to the stated health protocols to avoid contracting COVID-19.
“Christians must come out as better people after the outbreak,” said Archbishop Palmer-Buckle.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa