“You may now offer each other the sign of peace”, said the Priest as he rounded off the prayers of consecration.
Parishioners stood where they were exchanging awkward stares and glances as opposed to handshakes and embraces synonymous with ‘the sign of peace’ referred to by the Priest.
This was mass on Sunday in a Catholic Church somewhere in Lagos, Nigeria, a few days after scores were hospitalised and a couple of Nigerians died from over-consumption of salt in an attempt – following misguided information received – to protect themselves from contracting the Ebola virus.
I imagine several years from now, stories would be written, fiction or non-fiction pieces published about how people in certain parts of West Africa stopped shaking one-another because of a disease out-break that seemed to kill faster than it took one to retrieve their hand from a handshake.
It is difficult to tell people not to over react in a matter such as this, yet it is what we must do. The fear exhibited by the larger population of affected regions, particularly Nigeria, is palpable and may likely claim more casualties than the actual disease itself. The salt episode is a clear example.
There is a clear need for people to be very alert and take steps to protect themselves from this disease, but I imagine there is a point where such steps may be considered pushing the boundaries of caution, especially where these steps are misguided and unfounded. This is not a case for continued handshakes in churches and when we meet people publicly or privately. Nay, rather, this is a case for people to not be afraid to live life because there is a chance they might die.
Reports have confirmed to us that though “the disease is highly infectious, it is not so highly contagious.” Meaning that if a person were to transmit the disease, he or she has to first of all be obviously very sick, and most likely won’t be found sitting next to you in a board meeting, in the football stadium, at your office for a presentation, and possibly even next to you at church service.
So, as we go about our daily lives, we should try to make it as normal as possible, while taking the necessary measures to stay healthy and free from the disease. Yes, it is true that about 10 cases have been reported in Nigeria so far, that does not mean you are about to become the 11th case. There is no need to fear death by living. Do not be afraid to live and cherish the moments that make your life count.
Iweka Kingsley is the Author of DAPPLED THINGS. He is a Creative Media Consultant and manages Africa-OnTheRise, an online platform that monitors and shares ONLY positive and progressive news on Africa. Follow him on Twitter @IwekaKingsley