“Those suffering with HIV/AIDS
need and deserve the same attention which our biblical tradition
requires for “the orphans, widows and strangers in your midst,”
that is, a response which conveys God’s preferential love for
them.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga, selfless Jesuit martyr who aided victims of
the deadly plague in 1591, is the patron saint of those with
HIV/AIDS, of those who care for them, and so of the African Jesuit
AIDS Network.

The African Jesuit AIDS Network is a new effort to respond to
HIV/AIDS by developing an appropriate social ministry that is
deeply-rooted amongst those who suffer, that accompanies those who
care for them, that is sensitive to the local culture, faith and
spirituality, and that collaborates widely with others.

The African Jesuit AIDS Network was set up on 21 June 2002
by the Jesuits of Africa and Madagascar as an important common
priority and work. The goal is three-fold:

  • First, in each African country where Jesuits are, to encourage
    and help them to respond to HIV/AIDS by bringing those involved
    together into a taskforce or working-group which can develop
    responses appropriate to the local circumstances.
  • Secondly, to bind these national working-groups, step-by-step,
    into an effective continental Jesuit network

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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 …


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THE PASSION OF CLAUDE

Claude is a little boy whose parents died of AIDS. He was about eight years old when I first met him. Every day, he would rattle the gates at the Sisters’ place: “Sister, Sister…” The
nuns took him in along with the children to whom they gave a meal to fight kwashiorkor (a severe form of malnutrition). They also tended to a wound that would not heal. He was like a skeleton.

His family could not take care of him: his aunt was already caring for several children and was herself in poor health. Claude and his younger brother went to live with them. We tried to help her to care
of him, but Claude became more and more of a vagabond. Finally the streets became his home, and his family threw him out.

On the street, it became obvious that he also had AIDS himself.
Rumours spread that he was a ndoki (sorcerer), a wicked spirit that brings bad omens and that everyone flees like the plague; he was said to have caused the death of his parents, and his family rejected
him completely. Many would chase him away; sometimes throwing stones at him. He …


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