The General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church extends our prayers and compassion to all those who are affected by the Zika virus around the world.
While we affirm and respect the advice of the medical and scientific community, our faith compels us to pair that advice with our call to justice. Most of the current medical information on Zika prevention presumes that people most vulnerable to Zika have the ability to stay away from Zika affected areas and Zika affected persons, purchase mosquito repellents and can afford suitable clothing, and avoid taking care of a family member who is infected. It presumes an audience which can control its own sexual expression and make its own reproductive decisions. A majority of the world’s population is not able to take these measures. Lack of access to resources for prevention of mosquitos’ bites such as air conditioned homes, and proven methods to delay pregnancies renders large populations vulnerable to the Zika virus. Social and religious barriers and unmet need of family planning makes it impossible for women to avoid pregnancies even during the Zika virus outbreak.
Therefore, we call upon the world community and the world’s leaders to commit energy and resources so that all God’s children – regardless of means or resources – have access to preventive measures and care.
Governments and Medical Research Institutions
We call upon
- Policy makers to put political ideologies and partisan tensions aside and prioritize a quick and effective response to the Zika virus.
- Governments and international bodies to allocate resources for Zika virus prevention, management, and research for treatment and vaccine development.
- Governmental and non-governmental organizations to attack the prevalence of Zika around the world to eliminate it at its source, including efforts to control mosquitos.
- Researchers to assist in identifying conditions to which local communities can apply low-cost resources to reduce the incidence of Zika and the mosquitos that carry it.
- The world’s leaders and governments to increase the availability of contraceptive methods by which pregnancy can be avoided, to include barrier methods such as condoms which can also prevent transmission of the virus between humans.
- Research institutions to develop treatment measures.
- The world’s leaders and governments to make available resources that can assure couples of the health of the fetus and free the woman from carrying a pregnancy to term that may not survive.
- Governments to provide financial and social support to families that will have the responsibility of raising a child with microcephaly.
We call on
- Faith communities to support families and communities affected by the Zika virus with prayers, care giving and resource mobilization.
- The world’s religious and social leaders to challenge and transform cultures of male-dominated societies in which women do not have a say in when, how, and with whom to have sexual relations. We call attention to the United Methodist Church’s longstanding affirmation that women and men are “equal in every aspect of their common life.” (Social Principles, 162F)
- Attention to the United Methodist Church’s longstanding support for “comprehensive reproductive health/family planning information and services that will serve as a means to prevent unplanned pregnancies, reduce abortions, and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.” (Social Principles, 162V)
- We are heartened that even a leader of a faith community traditionally opposed to contraception – Pope Francis – has suggested that contraception may be morally acceptable to delay pregnancy when faced with Zika. (Washington Post, February 18, 2016).
- We urge the faith community to hold governments accountable to establishing effective and timely Zika virus response.
We know that the response of our world leaders to the Zika virus outbreak challenge can be a message of hope, and we call upon them to make it a reality. We call upon United Methodists to live fully into our social teaching on health and wholeness (Resolution 3202), and to this end, we commit our own prayers and energy.
The General Board of Church and Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. The board is called to seek the implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements of the General Conference on Christian social concerns.