BETHESDA, Maryland (CBSDFW.COM) – The cities around the clinical research hospital in Bethesda, Maryland where Ebola patient Nina Pham is being treated are home for the second largest population of African immigrants in the US. Many of them say they’re being stigmatized.
Reverend Edwin Lloyd leads a small, predominantly Liberian church in Beltsville, Maryland. And mention of their west African roots to others brings immediate responses for Lloyd and his church members.
“As a west African, if you just to show a little symptom of flu or a common cold that creates a whole lot of concern and people begin to get afraid,” Rev. Lloyd said. “I know there was one who is being asked to stay home for work for a while with flu symptomswhich was just a common cold. And some have been asked constantly on the job, you know, do you have relatives from Liberia? And those kind of questions which makes you feel uncomfortable.”
From refused handshakes to other congregations avoiding them, many in this community feel ostracized at a time when their loved ones are suffering and dying in Africa.
“I think it’s dehumanizing, basically,” Rev. Lloyd said. “Liberians and those in west Africa who are from the afflicted countries are going through a time of traumatization. And being stigmatized increases the trauma that we experience as a people.”
So, churches like Lloyd’s have become both haven and hiding place for many Liberians. A place where faith offers refuge from the Ebola fears of the outside world.
“We try to at least give them some sense of encouragement and some sense of hope because the society as a whole is not giving them that hope that we need,” Rev. Lloyd explained. “So they come back to this church or other African churches to get hope for the next week.”
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