This post from Dr. Robert W. Radtke, president of Episcopal Relief & Development, is part of a larger blog series on faith and the fight against malaria ahead of World Malaria Day. Get involved in Faith at ONE’s “Shine a Light on Malaria” campaign on their website.
When Jesus was on earth, his life was about ministering to people who were afflicted and marginalized, and bringing them physical and spiritual wholeness. This often included healing those with devastating illnesses such as leprosy, one of the scourges of his time.
Just as leprosy was a widespread problem during the time of Jesus, we have modern-day scourges. One of them is malaria. This preventable disease affects some 250 million people each year and takes nearly 1 million lives — most of them children under age five.
It makes sense that Christians, who are called to be the hands and feet of Christ, would feel compelled to help address this problem. Many times throughout Scripture, the God of compassion and love commands followers to care for those who are sick, hungry and vulnerable. In the New Testament, John the Evangelist sums up the matter plainly: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” (1 John 3.17, NRSV) The baptismal vows of the Episcopal Church further underscore this mandate, committing us “to seek and serve Christ in all persons and to respect the dignity of every human being.”
It is for these reasons that my organization, Episcopal Relief & Development, began the NetsforLife® program partnership to fight malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. Working with communities to shine a light on this deadly disease, NetsforLife® has reached more than 22 million people, helping them stay healthier. The related NetsforLife® Inspiration Fund campaign is providing a tangible means through which Episcopalians can act on their baptismal vows.
Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 form the mandate for Episcopal Relief & Development’s mission: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” This motivation is perhaps the most compelling of all for his followers: In each person who stays healthy, in each child who lives, we are serving Christ himself.
Please join ONE this World Malaria Day to mobilize your faith community to “Shine a Light on Malaria” and take action to save lives. Together, we can show that people of all faiths care about our neighbors suffering from malaria, and provide the lifesaving resources required to eliminate malaria deaths. Download the World Malaria Day Action Guide at www.one.org/faith to get started today.
Dr. Robert W. Radtke has served as President of Episcopal Relief & Development, the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church, since 2005. He is a member of the boards of InterAction, the Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty and the Steering Committee of the Anglican Alliance for Development, Relief & Advocacy.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Harvey Wang for Episcopal Relief & Development.