What can faith do in the fight against a global killer that has claimed hundreds of millions of lives for thousands of years?
Perhaps the better question is what can faith not do against this juggernaut of death and suffering? With innocent lives ending every 45 seconds from malaria, faith may be our last stand against this disease. Faith may be the home run in the bottom of the 9th inning that wins this critical game of life and death.
Malaria has brought together communities of faith in new and exciting ways. Faith is a fundamental part of life on the African continent. And, faith groups often have far greater credibility and trust in rural parts of Africa than other groups or government agencies.
More and more faith-based organizations are putting aside their theological differences in the name of saving lives. For The United Methodist Church’s (UMC’s) Imagine No Malaria program, these new partnerships range in scope from the Episcopal Church’s Nets For Life program to the Lutheran Malaria Initiative and also includes Jewish and Muslim faith communities.
“We may not always share the same belief system,” Rev. Gary Henderson, executive director of The UMC’s Global Health Initiative, said. “But, we are all on the same side of this fight – working together to save lives and ultimately eliminate death from malaria.”
Last year, The UMC, through Imagine No Malaria, participated in several major anti-malaria projects with inter-faith partners. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, The UMC joined forces with a group called CORESA (Partners combat malaria), an interfaith health alliance, to lead the effort to distribute nearly 30,000 insecticide-treated bednets. In Sierra Leone, faith partners provided most of the 3 million mosquito nets that were provided in November 2010 (Anti-malaria campaign begins in Sierra Leone).
This unique inter-faith approach was featured in the recent television special “A Killer in the Dark,” which provided an up-close look at how faith groups are leading the fight against malaria throughout Africa.
“Working in collaboration, we can achieve so much more than working in isolation,” Rev Henderson continued. “Great progress has already been made with expectations of much more to come.”
Just last year, the World Health Organization reduced the malaria death toll from 1 million to 800,000. With new treatments and greater accountability, the fight continues with more promise of success than ever before.