Friday, August 10, 2007

5am dreaming....


...I awake having dreamed of this beautiful woman. A couple of years ago I was sitting in a bar in Dar E Salaam drinking Serengeti beer pondering the aching and longing of the regal and beautiful Africa...This is Suzan Segu, she is one of so so many whose life is now fucked beyond what you and i can imagine, she will die soon - she may have already - and leave 5 children... I wonder to what?


Here is another diary exract from the visit to East Africa...

Day 11: Shattered Life: HIV/Aids
Every day 8,000 people die of HIV. 3,000 children become orphans. 14, 000 more people are infected. Only 5% of HIV-positive people who need help get it and world governments spend US$2.6 billion on defence.

Today was the day I had been looking forward to and dreading. I had never before spent time and listened to the stories of people infected with the awful disease of HIV/Aids. Tanzania is among countries in Africa where there are reports of increased risks of HIV infection to women as a result of violence during sexual encounters with family.

This is not what I expected to hear (even though I wasn’t really sure what I would learn this day). We are informed of women and girls being raped by ‘husbands and sundry’. Stories of husbands sodomising spouses, and we are told of bad traditions, and other violent acts, all of which, fuel the spread of HIV infection to the innocent women we meet (and thousands more we don’t).

We are spending a couple of days with The Anglican Church of Tanzania (ACT), one of Christian Aid’s long-standing partners in this country. It is composed of sixteen dioceses throughout the country, and their development vision is a holistic one that calls for an integrated mission of the church to cater for the needs of all in the community regardless of race or religion.

HIV/Aids is one of the top priorities of the ACT programme. Their objectives are to increase awareness of the pandemic, particularly to train religious leaders (of different faiths) to teach the basic facts as opposed to the misconceptions most people have regarding HIV/Aids. Pastoral counselling and homecare is an essential part of the rehabilitation of people suffering from this disease. The dignity of humanity is of paramount importance. What is needed (and what we hear is happening) is that real, positive change is giving more power and confidence to women, which brings a culture of change that transforms relations between men and women within communities at all levels of society.

Through education and courage to challenge systems, which bring social and legal reform, a greater awareness banishes ignorance to the backwaters of culture and empowers particularly women in this struggle. In short it allows the praxis of the theology of hope. That hope, which from within this age of Diaspora, sets free self-surrender and sacrifice for an age that stands on the knife-edge of tomorrow. The work of ACT is giving birth to a remarkable self-realization for these broken women of Tanzania. From the misery of self-estrangement and hopelessness they now see a horizon of a new beginning – even from within their illness.

Yet when you look deeper into the reasons why? You realise that the problem is not just about Aids it’s about poverty. As photojournalist Don McCullin describes: ‘this isn’t just a medical situation. It’s a combination of things. But the primary cause is poverty, which leads to hunger and despair.” Neema takes us to Huduma Afya Maendeleo Kwa Watu Wanndishi Vinavyosababisha Ukimwi, which is a centre for Aids victims to gather together for support, education, friendship and love. These ingredients allow something very special to take place – dignity in life. We meet with a group of women, all of whom have tragic stories to tell, all of whom are living with full blown Aids, all of whom (bar one) will be leaving children behind when they die – this they say is the hardest part of living with the disease. I stop writing at this point because there are no words to describe how I feel.


Two years later? This issue, much like the Parable of the Good Samaritan I preached on a few weeks back, is not about charity...it's about justice. Am gonna say that again....it's not about charity, it's about justice.

13 comments:

Ellen said...

How you did what you did shows amazing courage in the face of the horrors that plague Africa. Me.... I would have been reduced to tears and no help whatsoever. Two thumbs up, and my sincere admiration for your big heart.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

not sure i was any help either really ellen and i was certainly reduced to tears. here's hoping a big heart is enough....thanks for your encouragement

ps you should blog some more - it's been too long

Anna said...

HER EYES ARE AMAZING PAUL. You always show me another reflection of Jesus. Thanks for that.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

anna, she said she loved jesus and that she hoped he would help her die well - that's the part that killed me....

Awareness said...

Our greatest gift we can offer is our unconditional presence...tears, heart and looking a person right in the eyes and deep into their soul....

We need to learn more about the individuals who live and struggle daily in this global village we call home....to see their beautiful faces, like Suzan's and to hear/read part of their stories always helps nurture the human spirit to want to reach out to help. Numbers never do this.....Stats filter right past us.....when they aren't connected to a real person....your post did just that. It makes the numbers starkly disturbing.....as does the knowledge that the beautiful woman you have captured in the picture may be dead now.

thank you for sharing your experience meeting Suzan.....and for making the KEY point that this issue is about justice.

paris parfait said...

What a wonderful photo, but such a sad, sad tale. Thank you for sharing her story. Heartbreaking.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

dana'
Our greatest gift we can offer is our unconditional presence...tears, heart and looking a person right in the eyes and deep into their soul....' - hit it on the head there...i love what yancey says about suffering, that, 'sometimes the only meaning we can offer people is the assurance that their suffering, which has no apparent meaning for them, has meaning for us.

helps me deal with it...a little anyway

tara
thank you. i kind of think that We need to rediscover the man of sorrows, where evil, pain and suffering are nourished by tears; that place where compassion becomes a signpost pointing on beyond itself. A deciding factor in my own decision to follow ‘The Carpenter’ was that he is the God who suffers with, and for me. and for those who are imprisoned, shipwrecked, or just broken on the wheels of living, just maybe we need to embrace that brokenness, and understand that some things just can’t be fixed this side of some much better place.

Awareness said...

Hi. It took me a long time working in the field to get what it was that individuals responded to. Yancey's quote is exactly right.....and has stated it far more eloquently than I could.
What I find fascinating about human connections is that we don't have to have lived or experienced or suffered the same things.....sorrow is sorrow....pain is pain...tears are tears......it is the compassionate understanding of the underlyling emotions which allow us the "way in"...the way to finding meaning. It's far deeper than empathy, and I am at odds as to whether or not one can teach someone how to respectfully communicate this to another broken person. One has to be very comfortable with their own feelings before one can find the courage and comfort to really listen to another in pain.

The "how to" is certainly not found in a textbook, nor a self help book.

Paul........your explanation and comment to Tara has touched me as well.....it too reminds me of a U2 song (perhaps I'm perseverating?) I can't think of the name of it, but it has the line....."I have a brother......"

I hope my faith will one day be as strongly anchored to the same convictions......there are days when I feel this....that God is suffering with and for me....I would like it to be there always.

as always.....much to ponder from you.......loveitloveitloveit. ;)

bluemountainmama said...

hope..... without it, i think humans would already be extinct.

it sounds as if this ACT is bringing some measure of it... and non-apathetic souls such as you, harbour, who remind us of these things way beyond our borders and comfy existence.

may we never cease to pray and petition God on these souls behalf...our brothers and sisters.

yes, justice......

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

Dana, I agree - Historical and sociological insights urge theologians to look hard at situations where church praxis is worked out. Ideas in isolation are not enough. Theology needs to be seen in relation to the events that shape it.

Ubuntu, Xhosa expression, is one such example. It is an ancient African word meaning 'humanity to others'. Like many African words it has numerous translations, another is ''I am what I am because of who you are.'

that was a big influence on Bono....hence it resonates with you and has you thinking of a U2 song me thinks....


BMM
good to see you back, and i agree fully, without hope we are lost
The ACT (and so many other partners) are enabling so much good and hope. it allows me to believe in people again - we are after all 'Ubuntu', interconnected, we need one another - we are our brother's and sister's keeper

Sue said...

Hey there,

I came across your blog recently via Urbanmonk's link and I gotta say I find you a great well to drink out of when my own is empty (which feels like a great deal of the time at the moment). So thanks.

I see you live in Guernsey. I have a whole stack of relatives who live there (none of who I know). If you run into a Brehaut, they will be related to me.

I also see you are a freelance writer. That's my aspiration. And I'd like to think I'm a Bohemian bum but I probably watch too much commercial television for that one. I am, however, broke so that must count for something.

Thanks for your beautiful words and your beautiful images.

Anna said...

I am stopping by again to say hello. :)

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

hi sue, yeah monk's a good bloke - i like his take on all things life...

and yes there are many brehaut's here - next time i bump into one i will ask if they know some bohemian writer relative in auz!

your sit looks interesting....i will drop by from time to yime - thanks for your kind words

anna, thanks, been in london town for a few days - posted again earlier this morning....