Ebola: Bishop urges calm and calls for help for victims

A Church of England bishop has called for calm over the deadly Ebola virus and urged UK residents to focus on the "desperate need" of people in Africa rather than the extremely small possibility of it emerging in this country.

The Bishop of Croydon, Jonathan Clark, said many Anglican congregations in London have worshippers in particular from Sierra Leone, one of the three worst affected countries.

The Southwark diocese has thousands of refugees from Sierra Leone who fled the civil war, which lasted from 1991 to 2002 and devastated the country. They settled mainly in the Walworth and Peckham areas. Asylum seekers from more recent conflicts settled in Croydon itself because it is where claims are processed and where they have to report.

A youth under quarantine sits behind a cordon outside his house in Moyamba town on the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone. The bishop of Croydon has called for calm over Ebola, and mercy towards people 'in desperate need'.AP/Michael Duff

Bishop Clark, who recently added his voice to those calling for more refugees to be admitted to Britain from Syria in the wake of the onslaught by Islamic State, said: "There are a lot of people from Sierra Leone in churches across the Southwark diocese.

"They cannot do the thing they would normally do, which is to go home. That would be just to put themselves and everyone else in danger. They are anxious and bereaved."

Neighbours, friends and the wider population here can help by resisting the temptation to panic.

"We should focus on the desperate need of people in the countries where Ebola is raging unchecked, and not focus on the very very small risk that it might come to this country. Obviously we need to take necessary precautions. But the important thing is to get help to the countries which just do not have the facilities, the infrastructure and the staff to deal with it."

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said this week that it was only a matter of time before a case of Ebola emerged in the UK, most probably in London.

Bishop Clark is among the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith leaders who joined forces recently to campaign for Britain to accept Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war. He said people were facing death and Britain should take steps to offer them sanctuary.

"We have taken in fewer than 100," he said. "This is pretty unimpressive given that neighbouring countries have taken in thousands upon thousands."

Vicar of Baghdad Andrew White, who recently had to flee to Jerusalem because of advancing Islamic State forces, has also called for Iraqi refugees to be admitted to Britain. The UK has not admitted a single refugee from Iraq since the present crisis began.