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Blessed Anuarite Nengapeta is a young Sister of the Holy Family d’Isiro-Wamba
and a midwife who was murdered resisting the sexual demands of a rebel leader in
the Congo in 1964. St Aloysius Gonzaga is a young Jesuit who selflessly gave his
life caring for victims of the deadly plague in Rome in 1591. We entrust the
African Jesuit AIDS Network to their prayer and protection.


CHRIST, HOPE FOR AFRICA

The 13th World Day of the Sick will be celebrated at Yaoundé, Cameroon, on
9-11 February, 2005. The Holy Father’s Message “Christ, Hope for Africa,”
available at

ends with this Prayer to our Lady, Cause of our Joy:

O Mary, Immaculate Virgin, Woman of pain and hope, be benevolent to each person
who suffers and obtain for everyone fullness of life.

Turn your maternal gaze especially to those in Africa who are in extreme need,
because afflicted by AIDS or another fatal disease.

Look at the mothers who weep for their children; look at the grandparents who
are without sufficient resources to support their grandchildren who have become
orphans.

Clasp all of them to your Mother’s heart. O Queen of Africa and the whole world,
Most Holy Virgin, pray for us!

John Paul II


WITH FAITH IN GOD AND MAN,

THE BATTLE AGAINST HIV/AIDS

“Religion, women and AIDS” was the theme of the Second National Forum on
HIV-AIDS, which took place in Antananarivo, Madagascar, from 29 November to 1
December, 2004. The aim of this forum was to put together a strategic alliance
of religious authorities — an ecumenical and inter- religious collaboration in
the struggle against HIV/AIDS while respecting one another’s faith and values.

Father Michael Czerny was among the invited officials. His address sent a
message of solidarity and encouragement in the struggle against this devastating
pandemic. Drawing from a number of papal and episcopal documents, he
comprehensively explained the way in which the Church contributes to the
struggle and helps the persons affected socially as well as spiritually.

Pope John Paul II has given us enlightening directives not only on the nature of
AIDS and its prevention, the behaviour of the sick and of those who help them;
but also on the role that to be played by civil authorities and scientists. To
combat this scourge responsibly, “prevention must be increased through education
with respect for the sacredness of life and through formation in the correct
exercise of sexuality.”

In Madagascar, the different moral and civil authorities and those with social
responsibility (parents, religious leaders, educators and teachers) urgently
need to be convinced of the gravity of the situation, especially in the bush
country. The management of funds and the effectiveness of the methods adopted by
the different organizations involved need to be evaluated regularly. The urgency
and scope of this struggle requires our collaboration with other organizations,
while remaining true to our principles according to an appropriate discernment.

With its well-organised Forum, the government tried to rally support and
generate a consensus among NGOs and faith-based organizations — but this
requires genuine dialogue. Just before the Forum concluded, the Cardinal
Archbishop of Antananarivo took the floor and protested that a one-sided
approach favouring condoms meant “deceiving the people” without any real
dialogue.

In conclusion, Fr. Czerny recalled the message of John Paul II exhorting all
pastors to offer their brothers and sisters affected by HIV/AIDS all the
material, moral and spiritual support necessary. Scientists and political
leaders, likewise moved by the love and respect due to every human being, must
use all means available to bring this plague to an end.

Contact : Jean-Simon Ratsimbazafy, SJ


RISING WATER:

A theological reflection on Zimbabwe in crisis (an excerpt)

If we talk of suffering in our country, we know that the most terrible sickness
has struck thousands — and soon it will be millions. HIV/AIDS is given
attention but it still does not receive the focus and resources such a national
calamity requires. Can we talk of this terrible sickness as transforming and
purifying? Does it make any sense to speak of this dreadful suffering as
‘creative’? Descriptions proliferate of the physical pain and humiliation and of
the psychological suffering, the stigma and discrimination, this disease brings.
It is almost unbearable to enter into the many aspects people suffer as a result
of this virus. Yet we are called to be with the AIDS sufferer, with the Prophet
Isaiah, chapter 53, open on our knees before us: ‘The crowds were appalled on
seeing him — so disfigured did he look that he seemed no longer human …
despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering….’
In the midst of this terrible calamity we search for our Good Friday faith.

And there are the orphans. They are believed to be one million now — almost a
tenth of our whole population. Who would have believed, twenty years ago, that
the ‘born free’ would now be heads of countless families through the land? These
are the little ones, beloved of Jesus, who today carry responsibilities beyond
their years.

And what can we say of the refusal of so many to change their behaviour? There
are still people today careless of life — their own or those they infect. There
remains a blockage in men’s perceptions of their masculinity and their perceived
role as family decision-makers. Our efforts to respond could be helped by the
faith of Job. Job rejects the theology of retribution. His final monologue shows
he hopes, beyond his suffering, that he will meet God who is the source of life.
We approach the AIDS patient believing that suffering and death can become
places where God reveals himself to the sick person and to society.

The desperate situation created by AIDS virus can in fact be seen as a mirror of
society itself. The same wasting away is manifest in the politics and economics
of Zimbabwe. And the same revelation of God is waiting for us if we hold to our
faith and hope.

Contact: David Harold-Barry SJ, Silveira House
davidhb@silveira.co.zw


LIES ABOUT HIV/AIDS

(from Kisangani, D.R. Congo)

Rumours, lies and all kinds of beliefs, even convictions, circulate in the
streets of our cities and villages about sexuality and about HIV/AIDS. These
deceptions often shape behaviours which actually increase the spread of AIDS.
One can hear people loudly uttering in broad daylight the lie that a girl will
become sterile and a boy impotent if they do not have regular sexual activity
before a certain age.

We hear teenagers quoting, wrongly, the long-outdated principle from the French
naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck: “Any genital organ which is not used will
atrophy!” Other pious people invade our cities and shout at whoever is willing
to listen, preaching in season and out of season, foretelling the saving actions
of the Eternal, King of Armies. Still others tell how HIV/AIDS is to be
identified with “Karuho” or “Bulozi” or “Muziro” (poison). Finally, some dare to
babble the lie that it is enough to be lucky not to catch HIV.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us set aside these deceptions which can cost our
society dearly, and let us conduct ourselves in a responsible manner. No one
becomes sterile or impotent by remaining chaste, and if someone is impotent or
sterile, it is impossible to become fertile or potent by having more and more
sex. Divine salvific intervention, without either exaggerating or minimizing it,
must be situated within a selfless practice of the faith. AIDS is not cured by a
programmed incantation, nor by any renowned pastor dispensing miracles.
Furthermore, AIDS is not cured by any fetish, folklore or the exotic roots of a
sacrificer.

Finally, AIDS is not a matter of chance or luck. Once you give yourself up to
prostitution multiplying casual sexual partners, how many times will you stay
lucky and not catch HIV: Once? Twice? Or none at all?

Let’s stop this childishness, this burying our heads in the sand, and let’s face
the reality of AIDS which threatens all of us. It is said: A lie does not become
true because many people repeat it. Truth remains truth, even if no one admits
it. (Flyer “Parlons-SIDA” no. 21, December 2004).

JESUS AND HEALING
Africa remains top priority for European Mission Offices and NGOs

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