The coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, affecting societies around the world, including a new surge within the developing world. Updating a previous rundown two weeks ago, here is how United Methodists around the world are responding to the pandemic and to official measures being taken to halt the spread of COVID-19.
As coronavirus has spread into Africa, more branches of The United Methodist Church there have canceled church services, including in Kenya (announced Mar. 20), Angola (announced Mar. 21), Nigeria (announced Mar. 23), the Democratic Republic of Congo (announced Mar. 23), Zimbabwe (announced Mar. 24), and Zambia (announced Mar. 28). Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia had already canceled services prior to the last update. The Liberian UMC has since announced an anti-COVID-19 campaign in two Liberian counties. Africa University has moved to online classes in response to the coronavirus pandemic, though about 250 foreign students remain on campus, and the university is working to produce lowcost hand sanitizer. Africans are also offering lessons for coronavirus that they learned from the 2014 Ebola outbreak, including in this UMNS story and in an interview of Sierra Leone Bishop John Yambasu by Global Ministries' Thomas Kemper.
Several branches of the UMC in Europe have put together lists of church live streams, resources for congregations, and other coronavirus information. Included among these are the Evangelisch-methodistische Kirche in Germany, the Evangelisch-methodistische Kirche in Switzerland, and the UMC in the Czech Republic. The EmK in Switzerland is also coordinating two special Easter initiatives: a letter-writing campaign for members to send Easter greetings to each other and a collection of uplifting videos to be compiled and shared on the conference's YouTube channel.
In the Philippines, United Methodists expressed concern about the justice impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Church and Society posted this reflection by Filipina deaconess Darlene Marquez-Caramanzana about how the pandemic interacts with social inequality. And United Methodist News carried this story about two Filipino pastors experiencing harassment for their social justice work, harassment which has been exacerbated by stay-at-home orders.
United Methodist conferences and episcopal areas around the world have undertaken campaigns of prayer and fasting, including the UMC in Estonia, the Finno-Swedish Annual Conference and the Baguio Episcopal Area in the Philippines.
The General Board of Church and Society has short reflections on the lived experience of the coronavirus from United Methodists in Norway, Germany, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Nigeria. Connexio, the Swiss United Methodist mission agency, offers these snapshots of how the pandemic is affecting United Methodist social and health agencies around the world.
Connexio has also launched a special Easter fundraising campaign for support to partners impacted by coronavirus. The Norwegian Misjonsselskap launched a fundraising campaign for coronavirus support for partners in Africa. The Baguio Episcopal Area launched a fundraising campaign for a special COVID-19 Help Fund. Mary Johnston Hospital, the first Methodist hospital in the Philippines, put out a call for personal protective equipment. And while Global Ministries has had to put most mission and relief grants on hold because of the financial consequences of the pandemic, its COVID-19 response is an exception. It is working with partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Philippines to build response capacity.