BY Ryan McDougall | March 20 2020 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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‘We beat Ebola, you can beat this,’ Congolese archbishop assures Scotland

Visiting Congolese archbishop says Scotland can overcome coronavirus on trip to Glasgow.

‘If the Democratic Republic of Congo can beat Ebola, Scotland can overcome the coronavirus,’ a Congolese archbishop has said while visiting Glasgow this week.

Archbishop François-Xavier Maroy Rusengo of Bukavu Archdiocese DRC believes the Catholic Church in Scotland could work more closely with other faith groups and the government in order to overcome the growing coronavirus crisis.

The senior clergyman was visiting Scotland to witness the work of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF), but his trip was cut short due to the ongoing pandemic.

Survivors

SCIAF’s Wee Box appeal this year tells the story of survivors of sexual violence in the DRC and details the work SCIAF is doing to help.

Bukavu, the capital of the DRC’s South Kivu region, was able to thwart the most recent Ebola outbreak, which began in August 2018, despite the nearby North Kivu and Ituri regions being badly hit.

Archbishop Maroy told the SCO: “We were recently told by the government there were no new cases of Ebola and it was proclaimed it was eradicated—but we were advised to watch out.

Church and state

“The coronavirus is everywhere, including the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi and in Bukavu Archdiocese, so we remain vigilant. It’s all over the world and it attacks the rich and poor, black and white. It doesn’t choose.

“But if the DRC can beat Ebola, Scotland can beat the coronavirus.”

The archbishop drew parallels between how the Church and state worked closely together to curb the Ebola crisis and how the Church in Scotland and the Scottish Government could do the same in the COVID-19 outbreak.

Solidarity 

“We should all be aware, work together and be in solidarity to prevent it. We must work together.

“The role of the Church was deeply part of the prevention of Ebola. The Church raised awareness and informed people of the measures to take to prevent the spread.

“The Church also provided assistance to the people who had Ebola. A lot of the health centres and hospitals are run by the Church.

“We worked with the government on response, and we were thankful for the collaboration between the Church and the government and we thank the people who made the collaboration possible.”

Will of God

He added: “I hope you will do the same here in a much bigger and better way because Scotland has good means of communication and this can help you to eradicate the coronavirus.

“The Church can communicate the will of God and the churches and government could work together.”

During his short trip to Scotland, the archbishop concelebrated Mass across three parishes in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and stayed in the parish house of the Immaculate Conception Church, Maryhill.

Interfaith

He credited interfaith relations and ecumenism as a reason why the South Kivu region was able to stamp out Ebola, and said that Scotland can do the same with COVID-19.

He said: “Many of the churches in South Kivu worked together—Catholic, Anglican and Protestant.

“The different churches aimed to have a strategy to eradicate Ebola. That’s why it wasn’t too bad in South Kivu and we’d invite people to do the same here.”

Fears

The most recent outbreak of Ebola in the DRC saw thousands of new cases of the disease in late 2018 and through 2019.

As of February 17, however, there have been no new confirmed cases, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres International.

Despite fears surrounding the coronavirus, the archbishop believes people should not be afraid.

“When someone is afraid they lose the strength to fight,” he said.

‘Do not be afraid’

“I invite them not to be afraid. Instead, they should be determined to bring an end to this. For me, to be afraid is a way of losing—one who is afraid has already lost but the one who is not afraid will succeed.”

I invite people not to panic but to practice all the things that scientists and the government have recommended. The archbishop flew back to the DRC on Tuesday March 17.

He told the SCO how he was ‘surprised’ to have met three African priests during what was his second visit to Scotland, having previously visited around 10 years ago

Revisiting Scotland

He said there is a ‘real need’ for more priests in Scotland, and said he was ‘worried’ that he heard that many young Catholics had disengaged from the Church.

However, he added: “In spite of what I observed, people are willing to support SCIAF. It means they are deeply Christian and feel compassion. That’s one small thing I have noticed.”

Archbishop Maroy hopes to revisit Scotland again in the future, and considers the Scottish people his friends.

“When you have a friend it’s normal to visit them. SCIAF comes to visit us regularly. If we can contribute to helping SCIAF then I am available,” he said.

Generosity

He also noted the generosity he witnessed from parishioners across the various churches he visited.

“Some people came to give us food and one person wanted to give me money. The children came to pray with me and they gave me a bottle of Scotch Whisky,” he smiled.

“When you pray for us in the DRC and our work, it’s important to know who you are praying for. We are no longer abstract—you know us now. So I wish to come back again.”

Archbishop Maroy thanked SCIAF and its volunteers for all they are doing in his country, and encouraged Scottish Catholics to continue supporting the Wee Box appeal.

“We want people to contribute to the Wee Box and know that when the Scottish people support it, they support us too.”

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