The toll of Ebola in the Twin Cities

The Church’s Response to Ebola.

Thousands in West Africa have already died from the devastating Ebola virus. The disease has overwhelmed Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, making daily life nearly impossible for millions of people.

Thousands of miles away in Minnesota, the state’s West African residents are dealing with the aftermath of the Ebola virus: relatives and friends who have died from Ebola and the stigmatization they experience as being West Africans in the Twin Cities.

On Thursday, Nov. 13, the Twin Cities Area Mission Professionals (TCAMP) organized “The Church’s Response to Ebola: Reports, Insights, and Lessons from West African Community Leaders.”

Thousands of miles away in Minnesota, the state’s West African residents are dealing with the aftermath of the Ebola virus: relatives and friends who have died from Ebola and the stigmatization they experience as being West Africans in the Twin Cities.

The Transform Minnesota-led event helped connect Christian leaders in the metro with resources and relationships to address the needs and stigmatization many West Africans experience. The meeting also introduced the idea of churches standing as a united front against the stigmatization of West Africans. Those three tasks—relationships, resources and representation—serve as the core for what Transform Minnesota attempts to accomplish.

The program featured representatives from the Liberian Ministers Association, the Minnesota African Women’s Association, the Brooklyn Park fire chief and emergency management director, and president of the Brooklyn Area Ministerial Association.

LaBelle Nambangi, director of the Minnesota African Women’s Association, said West African students in the metro area are experiencing stigmatization.

“Some of the students are experiencing a lot of name calling,” she said. “[It] kind of gets the students frustrated and everything. It’s caused a few students to get in fist fights with other students because they were called ‘Ebola.’ Some of the students don’t want to be identified as Africans anymore because they feel stigmatized.”

Since most Christians and churches were unaware of the situation for West Africans in the metro, the TCAMP meeting was a way to educate and inform people about the practical realities taking place around them.

“Our goal was for area churches and area ministries to learn how the Ebola epidemic was affecting people in Africa and how it’s affecting West Africans here in Minnesota and how we can come alongside the West Africans … help them combat the stigmatization that they’re receiving,” said John Pederson, director of mobilization for Bethany International, who also served as moderator for the meeting.

The meeting introduced several practical ways for Christians to become more involved.

“From what we talked about, churches and individuals can help by leading by example in times when you see an African being discriminated against,” Nambangi said.

Those practical ways also include offering friendship in cases of isolation, prayer and more forums like the TCAMP meeting where the community can become informed about the specifics of the disease and how it is affecting West Africans in the Twin Cities.

To read more about how Transform Minnesota resources, relationships and representation to thousands of Christians across the state, visit https://transformmn.org/.


November 18, 2014

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