Sierra Leone marks the 1st anniversary of being declared Ebola Free

Freetown, Sierra Leone, will always be remembered with deep emotions amongst the Society of African Missions. It was to there, on 4 November 1858, the first SMA missionaries embarked for Gorée and Freetown in the Vicariate of Sierra Leone, a territory entrusted to the SMA. There were three in total: Louis Reymond, Jean-Baptiste Bresson and Brother Eugene. And it was there, on 15 May 1859, our founder, the Servant of God, Melchior de Marion Brésillac, arrived with two companions, Louis Riocreux and Brother Gratien, in the midst of a deadly outbreak of Yellow fever.

Within six weeks of Bishop de Brésillac arrival, the small community of six pioneer SMA missionaries was decimated. On June 2, Fr Riocreux died, aged 27; On June 5, Fr Bresson died, aged 47; On June 13, Br Gratien died, aged 29; On 25 June, Bishop de Bressilac died, aged 46; and 28 June, Fr Reymond died, aged 36. Br Eugene miraculously survived the illness, and returned to France, alone.

On the 7th November 2016, Freetown fell silent, perhaps for the first time in its bustling history, to observe three minutes silence marking the 1st Anniversary of being declared Ebola Free. The idea of the three minutes silence was the brainchild of Yvonne Aki-Sawyeer, head of the President’s Delivery Team for Transition and Recovery:

“I was in church when someone was asked to pray about the Ebola outbreak. And this lady began to make reference to the death of her family members,” Aki-Sawyerr recalled. “She was really emotional about the fact that she had not been able to say goodbye; that they had not been able to remember the death with honour, with dignity.

“It really struck a chord in me. All over the country there are people with the same situation. They have not had closure.”

The news agency, IRIN, tells the touching story of the day Freedom fell silent and captures the mood of the people, many of whom are still living with the consequences of the outbreak.

As SMAs we remembered very specially the people of Sierre Leone at this time, and all who suffered the ravages of the Ebola outbreak and give thanks for the many medics and volunteers who fought and died in the cause of its containment.

The IRIN article may be accessed here:

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