The Black Death, also known as the Great Plague, was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people—peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351. The Black Death is thought to have originated in the dry plains of Central Asia or East Asia, where it travelled along the Silk Road. From there, it was most likely carried by fleas living on the black rats that travelled on merchant ships, spreading throughout the Mediterranean Basin and Europe. The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe's population.
As a means of caring for those who were ill, St. Basil of Caesarea founded the first hospital (c. 369). Christian hospitals grew apace, spreading throughout both the East and the West. By the mid-1500s there were 37,000 Benedictine monasteries that cared for the sick. While many people and government leaders ran away from or even persecuted the sick during the time of the Black Death, Christian churches and monasteries reached out to and cared for the sick and dying. This tradition continues even today in many hospitals whose names contain the words, Baptist, Methodist or Lutheran.
Currently there is another worldwide epidemic with the Covid-19 virus. Many people are reacting in fear and panic. When my wife and I travelled to a neighbouring country in Central Asia earlier this month, we had to remain seated in place on the plane while an official dressed in an isolation suit walked down the aisle taking our picture with an infra-red camera to check whether anyone had a fever. Afterwards each of us was interviewed by more officials wearing isolation suits to see whether we had recently been ill.
More recently, it was decided that anyone from China who travels to that country should be immediately placed in quarantine while others from countries with outbreaks of Covid-19, such as Italy and Germany, are required to be in daily phone contact with local health authorities for 14 days regarding any symptoms of a viral illness.
The news in the country where we serve reported recently that government clinics and hospitals are refusing to accept Chinese patients. In addition, any patients from Korea, Japan or China with symptoms of a flu-like illness will face mandatory internment in a quarantine area previously used as a military base.
Our clinic was contacted yesterday by the Korean Embassy, who are concerned about adequate healthcare for their citizens in our country. We indicated that we would be happy to receive and offer care to anyone in our clinic regardless of the country that they come from or the symptoms that they have. Just like the Christian church of the Middle Ages, we won't turn away patients in fear. Rather, we will show them the same love and compassion that God has for us.
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