The Kiss of Death
The finest method of preserving traditions is by implementing and passing them from generation to generation. But to what extent should we continue to pass on a tradition if it does more harm then good? In many parts of Africa, a plethora of people have contracted and unknowingly encouraged the spread of the African Ebola epidemic by keeping up the tradition of kissing the deceased victims. Although they have passed, their bodies still host and transfer the virus via human contact.
Peter Piot was one of the first scientists to identify the first cases of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo and he has been thoroughly involved with the current outbreak. Piot has acknowledged that while at the funeral, it is a rite in which the family must touch the body as well as feast in its presence. While this is justified as a religious custom being carried out, the friends and families continue to rule out the possibility of getting infected and becoming newly appointed carriers of the virus. One possible suggestion may be that the families are strongly superstitious of what may come to be if they do not proceed with the established practices. Drastic measures have been taken by both the people and the churches across Africa to stop the spread. Some fearful villagers had brought it upon themselves to kill members of a disinfection and awareness team as they believed they were the one’s who brought the disease.
Churches recognize that the workers were on a humanitarian mission to eradicate the disease and have took responsibility in informing the public about it. They have suggested that the people find an alternate way to religiously bid farewell to the deceased. Piot and many others are seeking help from religious and cultural traditionalists for answers to guide the people away from the epidemic without disrupting the traditions. In an effort to prevent the circulation of Ebola, churches have thoughtfully placed hand-washing buckets as well as disinfectants at their entrances. Ushers are recommended to wear gloves as they are collecting or counting offerings.
Taking the religious aspect into account, we can understand that the people are simply respecting a tradition. This is how it has always been and often goes without consequence, which offers an explanation as to why the strong believers would not doubt it. Often we feel the need to justify our believes by testing ourselves to see exactly how strong our belief system is, much like what’s occurring across African villages. It seems that the villagers would rather accept an infection then disturb a tradition that means to ensure the passing of their loved ones into the afterlife. They say that funerals in general are more for the living then the deceased. If one goes to a funeral, they are entitled to pay their respects however in a critical situation like this, health, immunity, and sanitization should be at the top of our worries.