RUWEPO team, today joined our partners and stakeholders in commemorating World AIDS Day 2018 in Nairobi. We distributed HIV resource materials like books, brochures, condoms, and lubricants. It was noted that Nairobi county hosts a large number of key populations ranging from 18% to 30%. HIV prevalence among women in Nairobi is at 8.4% while that of men is at 5.3 %. As RUWEPO in collaboration with our partners and stakeholders, we have strategies to address the high rate of HIV infections especially among key populations, adolescents and pregnant women. For us to reduce new HIV infections, reduce HIV related stigma and discrimination, we need more resources to address community wholistic capacity building trainings! Be part of the SOLUTION!!!!
NEW HOPE COMMUNITY CHAPEL
Sermon Topic: Being Christ to Our Community 1/12/2018
Matthew 25:35-36 By Rev John B. Makokha
It is notable that every 1st December, the world comes together to commemorate the World AIDS Day. This day provides a unique opportunity to reflect on the HIV and AIDS scourge, remembering the survivors and those that have succumbed to AIDS, and reinstate our commitment to the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Throughout the gospels Jesus continually healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and touched the lepers, fed the hungry, showed love to the marginalized such as demon possessed prostitutes and gentiles. We need to follow the example of Christ Jesus since majority of people infected and affected with HIV and AIDS are feeling lonely, sad, depressed. Majority are living within the prison walls of stigma and discrimination.
The outbreak of the medically incurable HIV and AIDS has afflicted the world for more than three decades. There is no other calamity since the slave trade that has depopulated Africa at the rate AIDS has done. Dr. Don Messer in his writings has referred to it as a terrorist and genocide. On the other hand, Nyambura Njoroge a Kenyan theologian and global Coordinator of World Council of Churches, theological education program describes HIV and AIDS as “a disease that speaks multiple languages and thrives on other pandemics”. It is notable that beyond the HIV statistics and figures there are real human faces who are children of God.
We are aware that in many countries of the world, churches and individual Christians are responding to Christ’s call to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ by undertaking community initiatives to address overwhelming tons of challenges of HIV and AIDS.
In sub-Saharan Africa, churches have often been in the forefront of efforts to reduce the impact of HIV and AIDS. They are demonstrating, in many practical ways, that they feel ‘called to care’ for those who are infected or affected by the AIDS epidemic. It is notable that they have pioneered ways of making basic healthcare available to people living with HIV, and providing children orphaned by AIDS with education, social support and health. It is regrettable that orphans are a new social burden in Africa, especially in slums and rural areas riddled with poverty.
However, churches have been much less effective in addressing software and hardware issues of HIV prevention, HIV-related stigma, shame and discrimination and cultural and gender identity and sexual orientation issues associated with high-risk sexual behavior due to religious homophobia and transphobia. Denial of the reality of HIV and AIDS within church communities is also widespread. Again, although sex is the main conveyor belt of HIV transmission in most nations, it is rarely discussed in church circles in open due to cultural reasons and the sin of shame. Sex is never discussed in the open in Africa and yet it is practiced widely. It is a taboo.
Nevertheless churches and other faith organizations have enormous and great potential to empower individuals and communities with proper knowledge, skills, strategies and right attitudes to deal with issues of gender identity and sexual orientation, sexuality and HIV and AIDS. Indeed the church is a sleeping giant and sometimes deliberately consuming the sin of silence or being judgmental. The church has failed to provide adequate financial resources to deal effectively with this pandemic. For us to succeed the war against HIV and AIDS, we need the total synergies of the church in all aspects.
As we gather here to address the topic of the sermon-“Being Christ to Our Community” let us rethink and revisit on the following three points:
1. Overcome the sin of silence, stigma, discrimination, denial and fear that inhibit the church community action to holistically and effectively address AIDS -related issues
2. Provide pastoral and laity leadership for educational awareness for the prevention of the spread of HIV in the community, and care and support for both the affected and infected families. As Rev Dr. Don Messer puts it in his book “Names Not Just Numbers: Facing Global AIDS and World Hunger” we need to move from theological taboos to theology of life.
3. Reflect on and digest the health, theological, ethical, social, political and economic implications of the HIV epidemic and the Christian call to respond with love and compassion. AIDS in Africa seems to strike disproportionately women, young and educated segment of the population.
The acute vulnerability of African communities to HIV calls us to reexamine our mission. We need to ask ourselves which issues have we not dealt with properly while spreading the gospel of Christ. Have we supported values and attitudes which ignore or damage the weaker members of our communities? Our African cultural norms give men greater power in the way they relate to women in terms of sexual behavior. Christians in sub Saharan Africa have tended to ignore the issue of power and powerlessness. This has contributed to the high rate of HIV infections among girls/women. We must reduce our vulnerability to HIV through empowerment, resilience and capacity building.
Our African traditions are part and parcel of our cultures. Different ethnic communities have their own ways of addressing remarriage, transition to adulthood and death ceremonies. These traditional practices involve sex or using sharp instruments to cut the skin. These may carry a significant risk of transmitting HIV. As we practice our African traditions we need to challenge and confront the values and practices which propagate traditional community practices that enhance the wide spread of HIV and STIs. Through our churches and faith based organizations we have massive opportunities of influence to bring positive changes and transformation to our respective communities.
As regards sexual behavior in some parts of Africa, as many as one-third of men have more than one wife. It is also acceptable for men to have both premarital and extra marital sexual partners both for Muslims, Christians and Atheists. This has accelerated the increase in HIV infection rates.
We have a biblical responsibility to protect the weak and vulnerable individuals and families-especially orphans and widows. The high death rates associated with HIV and AIDS have impacted the social and economic structures and fabrics of our communities in Africa. But too few churches and community organizations are involved in the HIV and AIDS ministries and their impact is not widely and sufficiently felt. There is a need for more churches-especially at congregational level to support those who have suffered injustice because of AIDS-related issues. As James 1: 27 says, “What God the Father considers to be pure religion is this: to take care of widows and orphans in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.”
Mobilizing resources through networking and partnerships for HIV and AIDS projects in our respective communities. This can be through initiatives such as community resource mapping as a means of enabling communities to identify local resources. The AIDS epidemic is a global problem, requiring a huge commitment of resources at global level. But it is also a local problem, where locally available resources are crucially important. Experience has shown that successful church-based initiatives usually start by using available local resources and only seek external resources to fill the remaining gaps. Those groups that believe they need external funding in order to start their activities rarely get off the ground, or collapse when the external funding comes to an end after successfully acquiring it. Resilience is vital for HIV and AIDS projects success in Kenya, and Africa.
We need to turn our commitments into action when addressing prevention of HIV infection, care and support for households infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in our respective societies. We must develop participatory education programs to empower women, men and youth to change their behavior and take responsibility for containing the spread of HIV.
Promote effective means of prevention and practices that save lives, promote voluntary counseling and testing and support existing counseling structures in the community. Encourage congregations to make available buildings and property for training and care for people living with HIV and AIDS. Support local communities in caring for vulnerable groups infected and affected by HIV and AIDS such as orphans, widows/widowers, caregivers and support groups.
At the local level, health committees should be enhanced in each congregation and create safe spaces for persons affected and infected with HIV and AIDS. These structures can focus on prevention, education awareness, advocacy, health rights and home based care. In time for despair, pain and suffering, the church can provide the biblical message of hope and love to both the affected and infected individuals and families.
Advocate for access to health care, anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) and prevention from mother to child transmission.
As a group God planted the seed of starting a school in our hearts after soul searching and reflecting on the 6 biblical texts that echo on the caring for orphans and vulnerable children in our community (James 1:27, Exodus 22:22-24, Isaiah 1:17, Psalm 146:9 and John 14:18). But because of time, allow me to quote Matthew 25: 31-46 that calls us to feed the hungry clothe the naked, give water to those who thirst and comfort those who suffer. Indeed the voice of God pushed us to implement His mission through the power of faith and hope. We had to move from inaction, voiceless and silence to action.
Let us pray that we may have the medical, ethical, legal, educational and spiritual advances in the field of HIV and AIDS continue.
Most merciful God, you hold each of us dear to your heart. Hold people affected and infected with HIV and AIDS in your loving and compassionate arms. Loving Father, tenderly draw them into your divine love. Assure them that they are not alone, and give them courage, faith and hope in the storms of life in view of social stigma, discrimination and human misjudgment. Lord Jesus, strengthen those who care for them and treat them and guide those who do medical research. Forgive those who have judged harshly and enlighten those who live in prejudice and fear. Abba Father, nourish those who have lost sight of you, and heal the spirits of those who are broken.
We have prayed in the powerful name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen