There’s something prophetically right that World AIDS Day (yup, that would be today) falls during Advent.
The AIDS pandemic is emblematic of how resistant the wrongs of the human predicament are to our best remedies. So much of what is wrong with human life is unfixable, the lack of a solution mostly rooted in human causes and the hope for a solution found in a change of heart and will that can only seem to come from a divine intervention.
Every year in Advent we hope for a better, different world but it’s the same, repeated story – things haven’t changed much. Just like the story of AIDS (four years ago I wrote an article for a magazine focusing on the easily forgotten African AIDS pandemic, a horror that continues today). While the U.N. AIDS agency reports there has been a 20 per cent decrease in new HIV infections over the past decade, there are still 7,000 new infections each day. Each day! Stephen Lewis reports that there are 10 million people who require treatment in order to simply stay alive, and there are over 30 million people living with the virus. My heart screams out for it to end. And if you do too, you’re in an Advent state of mind.
And yet the fight against AIDS is also a sign of defiant hope, how God’s Kingdom comes in this world. Like grandmothers coming together across oceans to meet on common ground (see here), church communities learning to embrace AIDS, raising money, awareness and building intentional partnerships with AIDS plagued communities, or just everday people moved to do what they can. That, too, is an Advent way, to live defiantly hopeful.
If you want to hear one of the great leaders on AIDS, Stephen Lewis, talk about HIV/AIDS in Africa, you can go here to view the broadcast of “The Great Canadian Conversation about HIV/AIDS in Africa with Stephen Lewis” which happens at 8:00 p.m. EST today.
But mostly I’m led to pray. So here’s my prayer for you and me this World AIDS Day: God of all compassion, bless our eyes so we see the wasted face of HIV/AIDS; bless our ears to hear the haunting cries of the HIV/AIDS orphans; bless our hands to reach across any divide – political, geographical, cultural, social, theological, sexual – to hold out the compassion of Christ; bless our feet to take us into uncomfortable places and move us to action; and bless our hearts by breaking them, piecing them together into his own heart for the least of these. Amen.