Makeni (AsiaNews) - True to his vocation, a Filipino
missionary in Sierra Leone - one of the three African countries most affected by
the Ebola virus - refuses to return home and save himself from possible infection
because a "good shepherd" never abandons his sheep to the mercy of
the wolves. "I'll stay in Sierra Leone. I am still convinced that this is
not the time to leave the country," said Fr. Anthony Patrick S. Santianez,
in a post on the social networking site Facebook. The Xaverian priest, a native
of Calbayog, Samar province, leaves no room for doubt or uncertainty,
confirming to everyone that he is ready to die for his mission.
The good shepherd, says the Filipino priest (pictured), "lays down his life for his sheep, if necessary"; this is why he does not intend to respond to the appeal launched by the government in Manila, asking all fellow citizens in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to leave the area and return to the Philippines. "My response - he says - is and will always be no."
Fr. Anthony, as he has already said many times in the past, fears for his health and life, but does not intend to abandon his parishioners to their fate, especially at this time of great need. Speaking to CbcpNews he added that for a moment, he had thought to return, but a "touching petition" from one of his "sheep" prompted him to change his mind.
According to the priest, who first arrived in the African country on June 24, 2008, having completed his theological studies at the University of Manila, the Ebola outbreak is a good opportunity to bear witness and show solidarity with the local population. "I was also surprised by my mother's phone call - adds Fr. Anthony - who asked me to stay here. I knew it was the voice of God speaking through my mother."
Vice-rector of the church of St. Guido Maria Conforti in Makine, the missionary administers the sacraments, teaching catechism and visiting individuals and families throughout the diocese. And from Sierra Leone, he asks his fellow citizens in the Philippines' only for prayer, "the real source of comfort and concrete means to address and overcome difficulties.
Ebola is a virus that causes very aggressive hemorrhagic fevers and has a very high mortality rate; the current strain has an incidence of around 70%, but can reach up to 90%. So far it has killed 4,922 people, but the real figure could be even higher. The first case of infection occurred last February in Guinea, and then spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia. It is spread by contact with blood and body fluids of infected persons. There is no effective treatment and the epidemic of recent months has prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare it an international emergency.