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The rationale behind the theme of this year’s Hekima Theological Week (January 2003) is well captured in the words of Tanzanian theologian Fr.
Laurenti Magesa:

“African theologians need to identify and reflect on the issues that touch them deeply, the hearts of today’s African men and women…. Certainly, after the massacre
in Rwanda, theology in Africa cannot be the same as before…. I ask myself whether anything has changed in the method of catechesis, in the understanding of the Church, liturgy and prayer in Rwanda in
particular, and Africa in general, after 1994. Eight years after the Rwanda sacrilege that stained the world’s conscience, theology and the Church in Africa must find a new way of catechizing in true
conversion.” [L. Magesa, “African Theology and the Local Church: Positive Tensions,” in NEW PEOPLE, no. 81, Nov-Dec 2002]

The Hekima Theological Week was graced with six
speakers, and the final talk was “A Theological Research Approach to HIV/AIDS” by Michael Czerny, SJ, director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network – AJAN.

As a newcomer to the
continent, Fr. Michael began with some autobiographical notes and his own research agenda. Picking from the theme of the theological week, Czerny dwelt on the word “translating.” The verb connotes
transferring or passing from one reality to another. In the case of AIDS, this means transferring oneself from one lived reality to another. For us to understand the effects of this epidemic, one has to
locate oneself near the reality and not remain a distant and unaffected observer. We have to place ourselves into the context of AIDS if we are to do sound theological research here. As a starting point,
AIDS affects us all.

In analogy to the classical philosophical problem of “the one and the many,” one may be tempted to look first at the statistics of those infected by the virus,
the thousands and the millions – that is “the many.” But better if we start by knowing and caring for one infected person, and out of “the one,” the depth and reality of the AIDS pandemic are really
revealed to us. We are recommended to move from “the one” towards “the many.”

For doing theological researches into the lived reality of HIV/AIDS, Fr. Czerny then proposed an
interdisciplinary approach which includes many approaches
. Natural sciences like Biology show us a virus that with incredible
ingenuity attacks a cell, the centre of reproduction, the centre of life. AIDS seems to have cracked the secret of human life and is in a relentless attack on it. We seem to be dealing with an evolving
enemy of life itself.

From Social Sciences like Demography one gets an idea how AIDS follows human migration patterns and causes population changes. Psychology will investigate
issues of sexuality, for example, Don’t we all know that the psyche is our most important sexual organ? Microeconomics helps us to understand the peculiar role of pharmaceutical companies in the global
response to AIDS. Macroeconomics calculates the economic impact of AIDS on a nation. The sociologist will speak about stigma and exclusion, something the Church should try much harder to discourage. We
may also want to explore the history of AIDS and reflect more deeply in Philosophical Anthropology on AIDS as the disease that cracks the very “logic of life.”

In Theology, we
begin with Biblical
Theology like the man cured from leprosy (Luke 5:12-16). Through the example of his own life, Jesus teaches us how
to respond to this pandemic. He touched someone who was considered unclean. By touching the man, Jesus put himself into the reality of the disease. Ecclesiology also offers interesting avenues of thinking
about AIDS, and Pastoral Theology clarifies the Church’s ministry of providing services and moral support to the victims of AIDS. Missiology, finally, prepares people to serve. As missionaries go out to
the suffering of HIV/AIDS, they find Christ already there, and He is the One they proclaim to the whole world.

World AIDS Day in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Defeating HIV/AIDS through Education

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