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At this blessed time of Christmas and New Year’s, AJAN wishes you peace and joy.
With the gift of life that we receive in the newborn Jesus, may God grant life,
healing, peace and hope to those, in Africa and throughout the world, who are
HIV-positive or have AIDS as well as to those who accompany them, those who care
for them, and those who are at risk. May the Lord grant you a merry Christmas
and a holy, healthy and happy 2005!

From Michael Czerny SJ, Elphège Quenum SJ, Grace Njoroge, Humphrey Sipalla Jr.
and all the AJAN staff, with special thanks to the translators who, each month
throughout 2004, have made it possible for AJANews to communicate all across
Africa and beyond: Mário Almeida SJ (Mozambique), João Caniço SJ (Portugal),
Robert Czerny and Marie McDonough (Canada), Étienne Triaille SJ (Kenya).


Provincial Rev. Fidelis Mukonori SJ sent a Message for World AIDS Day 2004 to
the Members of the Zimbabwe Province of the Society of Jesus:

On the occasion of the International HIV/AIDS Day — 1 December — I would like
you to renew your commitment in the struggle against this dreadful pandemic. As
Jesuits, we need to respond to the health crisis with greater urgency. The fight
against HIV/AIDS is not for a few professionals among us only. It concerns all
of us. That’s why this theme will figure prominently on the agenda of the
forthcoming Province assembly.

One way of more focussed involvement could be to campaign for volunteer testing.
It is a good way to inform people in our care on the reality of HIV/AIDS and to
destroy the false ideas they have about it. We need to help them to reject
discrimination and stigma against those who are infected by the virus.

We also need to strengthen partnership with the Church and the national
authorities to support spiritually, psychologically, medically and economically
those who would be tested HIV-positive.

Great things begin slowly. It took hundreds of years before leprosy was
recognised as a disease and not as a curse. Maybe our first actions will not
have a great visibility even in our own understanding. However, companions of
Jesus are guided by the desire for God’s greater glory. A God who loves us not
because of our own merits but because we are His creatures and because He loves
all his creatures personally. We too have to witness God’s love to all our
brothers and sisters who have to live with the virus.

Hand in hand, let us commit ourselves for a better world where the fullness of
life will flourish.

Contact: Heribert Müller SJ, Zimbabwe Province Socius


This was the second visit of Fr. Michael Czerny, Co- ordinator of the African
Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN), to the Rwanda-Burundi region; the first being to
Bujumbura on 22-28 March 2003. Fr. Czerny arrived in Kigali on 3 November 2004
and visited the noviciate community of Our Lady of the Way in Cyangugu, the day
before the first-year novices began their Long Retreat. He went on to visit the
community of Centre Christus in Kigali and had several meetings, both with
Rwandan anti-AIDS organisations and with Jesuits of the Regional House. However
a bout of malaria which developed shortly after his visit to the Centre Christus
prevented Fr. Czerny from completing his whole itinerary. He returned to Nairobi
on 9 November.

During the talk at the Centre Christus, Fr. Czerny reminded us that the AJAN
network began as a result of the initiative of Jesuits who had participated in
the World AIDS Conference in Durban in July 2000. After that conference, the
Jesuits made an urgent appeal to Father General for the Society of Jesus to come
to the aid of persons suffering from HIV/AIDS. From the beginning they wanted
the Society’s response to be modelled on the Jesuit Refugee Service,
establishing projects and strategies and assuring their follow-up. However,
according to Fr. Czerny, AJAN does not create its own projects; rather it
encourages Jesuits of the African Assistancy to found and develop projects, and
AJAN supports their initiatives.

What is the Society’s role in this type of apostolate? It must be acknowledged
that, after twenty years of research, AIDS remains a mystery. Indeed, we have
not yet mastered the evolution from HIV infection to AIDS in an infected
individual. Moreover to this day AIDS is perceived as a shameful disease; many
people are thus afraid to be tested for HIV or to acknowledge a positive test
result. The Society must labour, through a pastoral outreach, for a change in
mentality and behaviour. It is in and from Christian communities that we can
transform this reaction of shame, by accepting and welcoming the infected or
affected person.

Moreover, there is the question of AIDS statistics. These statistics influence
legal and political decisions. However, as Jesuits, we do not limit ourselves to
statistics in making apostolic and pastoral decisions. (From TUBANE no. 70 –
November 2004)

Contact: Aloys Mahwa SJ, Centre Christus Community


The President’s Reflections on Matriculation at the Catholic University College
of Ghana Fiapre, 6 November 2004

The mutual support within the student community is critically important for you.
Remember that. And here too we speak for all who walk with you as companions,
all who break bread with you. You students face challenges and difficulties that
differ from the challenges that your parents and many of your venerable
professors faced. Why do I say this? I say this because it is so easy now to
make one or two mistakes that will destroy your future and make impossible the
realization of your dreams and of the promise that is your life. This I need not
explain. You know well that hard drugs and AIDS can quickly destroy your lives
and any hopes you have for a future.

Your pledge is one of loyalty and collaboration in a personal commitment to
yourself and to each other: That you will avoid taking illicit or hard drugs
while at the University. Don’t be a dream killer — for yourself or for another

That you will deal responsibly with others in your human relationships. The
University is a time to develop friendships for a lifetime. Recognize this as a
treasure in your hands. Be responsible — treat your companions with respect.
Young women … these are your brothers and perhaps one will be your husband and
the father of your children. Young men … these are your sisters and perhaps one
will be your wife and the mother of your children. Be responsible — avoid the
casual encounters and the exploitive relationships that break down your values
of respect and trust, and that fuel the AIDS pandemic!

In other words, don’t sleep around! Don’t be a dream killer! — for another
person or for yourself!

What the world needs are people of competence, conscience and commitment —
whose heads are clear in thinking of the challenges of the day, whose hearts are
moved by the values of integrity and compassion, and whose hands are into the
thick of things….

Contact: Michael J. Schultheis SJ, President


In Bukavu, a town in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), AIDS is
still considered a shameful and horrifying disease. In St. Peter Claver Parish
in Nguba, “the sick hide themselves to avoid social discrimination,” write two
Jesuits, Joseph Kabamba and Emmanuel Bueya. The two Congolese religious believe
that Gospel charity calls all members of the parish community to find a solution
to this sad experience of stigmatisation.

The two Jesuits priests note that those in this parish who seem healthy never
submit to an HIV test. Only when seeking treatment in hospital for some other
disease does an unknowing patient discover that he or she is an HIV carrier.
From that point, shocked family elders try to pass on the information to the
rest in an evasive manner. The doctor, even when informing the family of the
sick person’s status, will often not openly inform the patient. In the event of
death, the family hides the truth, pretending that the cause was tuberculosis or
malaria. Thus the truth is stifled in a conspiracy of silence driven by beliefs,
preconceptions and attitudes that hurt the entire affected society.

To Frs. Kabamba and Bueya, the taboos that surround the disease and the issues
relating to sexuality paradoxically favour the spread of the disease. The family
does not want to risk rejection by other members of the parish community.
Indeed, as soon as the parish community discovers that someone is HIV-positive,
they keep their distance and block all contact with the infected individual. The
latter feels abandoned, rejected by the very people expected to come and assist.
This leads not only to the patient’s clinical death but also to the death of the
society. Moreover, if such a rejected person is married and a parent, the
children soon become the victims of tacit mockery and exclusion.

According to statistics issued by the National Programme on the Fight against
AIDS (PNLS), the most affected regions of the DRC are those also affected by
armed conflict. These regions, all to the East and North East of the country,
are the Eastern Province, Maniema, North Kivu and South Kivu.


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