The Kiss of Death: Ebola

The Kiss of Death

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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.

K.S #200

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3 thoughts on “The Kiss of Death: Ebola

  1. I really agree with you on the struggle that exists between religious traditions and health. I think that this will continue to be a struggle in fighting the outbreak, because it has been in the past. For people of the Congo it almost seems as if have a need to preserve their ideology over anything else; even if in the end they contract Ebola. I agree that at this present moment religion may have to be put aside. In the end though, it may be a higher power that determines what the end result is for the unfortunate that will contract this deadly disease. I think most importantly the people of the Congo need more access to education; in regards to what Ebola is and how it is spread. Maybe there is hope for an alternate ritual of helping the deceased pass on? This way religious traditions and rituals can coincide with a certain level of regard for one’s own health. Let’s hope that those trying to help these people can come to an understanding at this critical point and time.

  2. I think by now nearly everyone, at least anyone with access to a computer or television, has heard about the Ebola outbreak in Africa and how it’s now reaching across seas in the United States, Spain and Macedonia. Yet I have never heard of this tradition until now and I am shocked! I don’t see how this virus could ever possibly stop spreading as long as there are people carrying out this tradition! Although, as you pointed out, I can’t imagine being in that position where your so torn between living and not passing on this disease to your loved ones or making sure that your deceased loved one makes it into the afterlife. This just seems like an impossible decision. However, I don’t think Ebola will stop spreading as long as this tradition is carried out. Can it really be worth losing everyone who participates in these rituals?

  3. I think by now nearly everyone, at least anyone with access to a computer or television, has heard about the Ebola outbreak in Africa and how it’s now reaching across seas in the United States, Spain and Macedonia. Yet I have never heard of this tradition until now and I am shocked! I don’t see how this virus could ever possibly stop spreading as long as there are people carrying out this tradition! Although, as you pointed out, I can’t imagine being in that position where your so torn between living and not passing on this disease to your loved ones or making sure that your deceased loved one makes it into the afterlife. This just seems like an impossible decision. However, I don’t think Ebola will stop spreading as long as this tradition is carried out. Can it really be worth losing everyone who participates in these rituals?

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