Friday, August 10, 2007
...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.