Dion's random ramblings

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What every South African Church MUST do... If it is to be obedient.

Each year I have challenged my students, and my congregation, to look around them and understand the needs of our society. The basic principle is:

God will not consider how you pastored your congregation, but how you ministered to your community.

In the light of this I have become convinced that any Church in Southern Africa that does not have an effective HIV AIDS ministry has some growing to do in order to be obedient to God, and to participate in God's mission of bringing Christ's healing and transformation to the world.

Central to my theology is the question "What must the Gospel look like?" - we so often hear what the Gospel sounds like, but ask yourself the question, what does the Gospel LOOK LIKE in nation where there are more deaths than births? What does the Gospel look like where there are millions of Child headed households? What does the Gospel look like where people have monitised life saving drugs, turning the suffering of others into their profit? What does the Gospel look like? What is Good News to the dying? Of course the Gospel looks like our Churches - isn't it amazing that in a country where 78% of the population indicated that they were Christians we face social problems such as this?

I still have some work to do!

Today this shocking news report was released:

South Africa is in danger of losing the battle against HIV/Aids, the United Nations children's agency has warned.

Unicef's South Africa representative, Macharia Kamau, said infection and death rates were outpacing treatment.

This was having a devastating effect on children whose parents died of Aids, and sent out a dire message for the future, he said.

Mr Kamau said if present trends continued, there could be five million orphans in South Africa by 2015.

Huge risk

South Africa is one of just nine countries worldwide where infant mortality is rising - from 60 deaths per 1,000 births in 1990, to 95 deaths today.

The main reason, Unicef says, is HIV/Aids.

The average infection rate is almost 30% of the population - and in some regions it is closer to 50%.

Speaking in Geneva, Mr Kamau said the effect on children was devastating, and that infants whose mothers died of Aids were at huge risk of dying themselves.

Older children who have lost one or more parents faced a struggle to survive and to go to school, he added.

In South Africa today there are 1.5 million Aids orphans. If the trend of 400,000 deaths from Aids per year continues, by 2015, the number of orphans will have reached five million.

Mr Kamau said that the numbers of people in South Africa being treated for Aids were constantly being outstripped by the numbers becoming infected and dying.

He described this as a dire message for the future because although 380,000 South African Aids patients were receiving anti-retroviral drugs, 1.2 million were not receiving treatment.

As long as infection and death rates continued to outpace treatment, South Africa would lose the battle against Aids, he said.

Unicef says an aggressive expansion of treatment is needed immediately, alongside a much more open Aids prevention campaign from the government, to challenge the stigma which still surrounds the disease in South Africa.

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