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Jesuits in Africa and Madagascar Decry Shift in Attention from HIV and AIDS

AJAN was launched or baptised on 10 December at Lomé, Togo, and the Jesuit witnesses included Antoine Bérilengar SJ (Ndjaména), Xavier Bugeme SJ (Lubumbashi), Boniface Tonye SJ (Yaoundé),
Joachim Zoundi SJ (Douala), Étienne Trialle SJ (Nairobi) the chaplain of IMCS – Pax Romana Africa, and Agide Galli SJ, the local superior in Lomé, who spoke in the name of the Provincial. Here are
excerpts from the four Jesuit speeches:

The West African Provincial, Jean-Roger Pascal Ndombi SJ, underlined the collaboration amongst the three different institutions represented and
explained the significance of 10 December:

“I am very happy to welcome all three together – you dear Catholic University students of the International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS)
who must attack the AIDS challenge head-on if Africa is to have a future; the important international Agency UNAIDS which must co-ordinate the best efforts; and the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN)
which today is publicly launched among you. This collaboration is a most hopeful sign, a pledge of our seriousness, a promise of fruitfulness. The West African Province is ready to join you in learning
about AIDS and in taking up the battle as best we can, but you see how much we count on each one’s help.”

“Finally, I am happy to greet you on Human Rights Day. Not only because this
occasion puts the focus on your common effort to defend and promote human dignity however it is threatened by HIV/AIDS. But also because Human rights reminds us of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, who took
on himself all the sin of the world to redeem us, to liberate us from the fear of death so as to live fully and in service of our brothers and sisters in need.”

For the Moderator of the
Jesuit Conference (JESAM), Shirima Valerian SJ, AIDS is “the biggest threat to the survival of the African peoples after the slave trade. If nothing is done to stop its spread, it will empty the continent
more than the slave trade did. The issue is not only those infected with AIDS but also those affected by AIDS. Both need attention and care. The approach of AJAN towards this pandemic is multifaceted,
addressing the problem from various angles, from cure, prevention and care.”

“If it is true that AIDS has taken millions of victims,” argued the co-ordinator of the Jesuit Social
Apostolate in Africa and Madagascar, Muhigirwa Ferdinand SJ, “it is also true that one becomes a victim of AIDS. Our choices, our responsibility and our decisions are morally involved in how we acquire
the acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Beyond matters of prevention and medicine, there also needs to be education in the moral, Christian, and religious values of fidelity, love, abstinence, sincerity,
and chastity. This education must absolutely be promoted. Because what is at stake, most definitely, is not the HIV/AIDS virus itself but the person affected by the virus. Let us mobilise ourselves,
putting together all our scientific knowledge, all our physical, cultural, and intellectual, moral and spiritual energies, to fight against HIV/AIDS, to promote the development of each person and the
whole person. This person for whom Christ had the passion to endure his Passion because he had come so that people might have life and have it in abundance.”

And as co-ordinator of AJAN, I
returned to the theme of 10 December: “HIV/AIDS is not just an illness, but a much bigger human reality. So we should turn to human rights, the basic and universally-recognised minimum standards which
help to guarantee human life but which AIDS itself threatens. The struggle against AIDS must be based on human rights. That is why 10 December seems the right day to launch AJAN with the blessing of the
Church in Togo, in the presence of Catholic university students from all over Africa, and with the support of representatives of UNAIDS.”

“Our response must be truly evangelical. When
Jesus begins to preach the Good News, his anointing and mission are ‘to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the
Lord’s favour’ (Luke 4:16ff) and as His followers we engage in the struggle to prevent and stop the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout the continent. Everyone agrees on both the urgency and the immensity of
the task, and so as AJAN co-ordinator I solicit your prayer, concern and support in every way possible, from today when AJAN makes its début until that day when AIDS is over.”

May the Lord
of Life whose birth we celebrate bless all our people with good health, renewed hope, justice and peace: blessed Christmas and happy new year of 2003!

The four texts quoted above are available on the AJAN web-site ( in English and French as is the previous issue of AJANews, while more news of the AJAN launch is given
in the December issue of HEADLINES.

AJANews no. 5 (April 2003)

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