David and Roxi Owen - Kenya
In June 7-11 2004 The All Africa Conference of Churches organized a summit for Heads of churches to discuss the impact of the Heads of HIV/AIDS in the continent. Over 120 Heads of churches attended the meeting and came up with resolutions to step up the fight against the pandemic. Among the resolutions was to dedicate the last Sunday of November as the African day of prayer and fasting. This year last Sunday falls on the 28th of November 2004. We are therefore asking all believes in the whole world to joins in prayers and fasting. Letters us all joins hands with thanksgiving and repentant hearts cry to our father to heal this land of Africa of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. We believe as a church we cannot be able to do accomplish anything without God’s interventions.
The reasons we want to have this day are:
Prayer is a unique contribution of the church
“Devote your self to prayer, being watchful and thankful” Colossians 4:2
It is good to note that there are many actors in the field combating HIV and AIDS pandemic, and each of them is contributing something that they have advantage in. Some contribute resources, knowledge, information, time etc. The church and other faith communities can uniquely contribute in prayers. We believe prayers can move mountains and that everything is possible in God. Jesus said “where two or three people come together in my name there I am with them; and I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the son may bring glory to the father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it. Mathew 18:20, John 14:13-14
The challenge to overcome HIV/AIDS is very enormous such that we cannot overcome it by our strength alone. We need to pray and fast as Esther and Nehemiah did during their time. Esther 4:15- 16, Nehemiah 1: 4. Each of these leaders fasted and prayed before doing anything. Prayer and fasting is what the church does best. It is one of the core functions of the church. People gather once a week to offer prayers to God and to seek forgiveness. Through prayers many things are achieved and God is able to intervene in our lives when we ask. We believe when many people are joined in prayer it is even more powerful.
We need to seek God’s forgiveness because we have failed to emulate Christ’s teaching and embrace those who were suffering. Christ spent most of his time healing the sick and showing compassion to those who suffered. It did not matter to him what the person was suffering from. He did not dwell on questions of how someone got infected. He treated people with dignity and compassion no matter the station in life. Essentially this is what he commanded us to do when he gave us the two commandment “Love your God with all you heart, with all your soul and with all your mind; and Love your neighbour as you love your self” Mathew 22:37-38, this is what we have failed to do. We as a church have stigmatized and discriminated against PLWAs, we have denied them the right to participate in the church life and in some areas we have even denied them burial rights. We criticize the governments for jailing people without a trial yet we do the very thing within our worship areas. The church is the voice of the voiceless, but we have failed to speak for the poor and the powerless. We have watched Governments and some NGOS squander money meant for PLWAS in corrupt deals and said nothing about it. For God to forgive us, we need to forgive others and ask forgiveness from those whom we have wronged. We need to mend our broken relationships so that we can approach God in one accord. In the Lord’s Prayer we say forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. This needs to be put in action especially where HIV/AIDS people are concerned.
We need to thank God for the gift of life. Every life is precious to God who is the author of life. It pains God to see life going into waste when it could be nurtured and cared for. There is a lot that has happened in these two decades of the pandemic that we need to pause and thank God for. In Philippians 4:6 we are told “in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” Many people have taken the initiative to care and give support to the PLWAs and some with very little or merger resources. Others have made it their duty to advocate and mobilize resource for the fight: For example The Global fund, PEPFAR Money or (Bush Billions) and many other such funds. Churches in the north and church related organizations have supported various church initiatives in the south. Many people are caring for the sick and orphans and giving moral support to PLWHAS with meager resources. For example Canon Gideon has moved mountains to let the world know the suffering endured by those infected and affected. All this cannot be taken for granted. It is something to thank God for. We need to pause and give thanks to God for the far we have come.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills –
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.” Psalms 121:1
For us to fight this pandemic and not despair we need Gods help. He is the one who knows the extent of the suffering. We need to continually intercede so that a cure or a vaccine can be developed. He has done it before and he can do it again and again. Jesus told us not to cease praying but to continually pray with contrite heart. More resources are needed to continue the fact and more workers are need in the field. Jesus said, “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of harvest, therefore to send out workers into his harvest field” Mathew 9:37-38
“When evening came, many who were demon possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with words and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases” Mathew 8: 16-17
The Bible is full of stories of how people have been prayed for and have been healed. Healing can take various forms. There is physical healing, spiritual healing and emotional healing. Health is not complete if one of these is not accomplished. In his healing ministry Jesus ensured that there was holistic healing that went beyond curing physical ailments. We believe complete healing comes from the Lord either directly or through the medical staff. A lot of resources have been mobilized to research for a cure and vaccine for HIV/AIDS. At the moment people are using antiretroviral drugs to prolong their lives. Therefore a prayer for healing is essential as well as a prayer for a cure to stop the suffering and erosion of humankind.
World AIDS Day
The world AIDS day, which is celebrated on The first of December, falls on any day of the week. It therefore makes it difficult for churches to mobilize members to concentrate on the AIDS activities. This therefore makes it important to have churches start the AIDS week during there normal worship times.
Please focus your prayers on the issues that have been identified for this year for world AIDS day which are women and girls (Please see the attachment for more information)
What to do
Observe the Africa Day of Fasting and Prayer against HIV and AIDS related Stigma, Denial, Discrimination, Inaction and Ms-action.
On that day:
Hold prayers for the sick, the vulnerable, the caring, the bereaved, widowed, orphaned and for those engaged in HIV Prevention, AIS Care, Treatment, Impact Mitigation and Research.
Recognize and appreciate those individuals, congregations, leaders, organizations, agencies and associations who have demonstrated positive and consistent leadership against HIV and AIDS related stigma, denial, discrimination, Inaction and Mis-action.
Pray for a rapid end of HIV and AIDS and for a Vaccine/ a cure to HIV/AIDS to be found.
Pray for a scaled up response in which children, youths and adults are protected from HIV/AIDS and in which people who need treatment have access to it.
As an Individual: In Africa or Overseas
Because you are fasting (one meal only – either breakfast or lunch or dinner), donate the food you would have eaten or the money that you would have used to buy the food to support HIV and AIDS work in your congregation and local community.
As a Congregation: In Africa or Overseas
a) Donate a percentage of your fast to your local congregation, community and national HIV/AIDS programs; to the Global Fund for T.B; AIDS and Malaria (GFTAM) and/or to another congregation of your choice within or outside your continent that has a program that needs support.
b) If you are not sure as to whom, what or where to direct support from your fast; ask:
The HIV/AIDS Office of your Church, Mosque or Temple
Agencies, Organizations and Centers working on HIV/AIDS in your area.
Government and inter – Governmental departments, ministers and commissions on HIV/AIDS in your area.
Your senior religious leaders and community mobilizers
The All Africa Council of Churches HIVAIDS Desk (email@example.com)
The Africa Council on Children and HIV/AIDS
The Ecumenical HIV/AIDS Initiative in Africa
The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance or (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Church/FBO Partnerships Office HIV/AIDS Hope Initiative World Vision International (email@example.com)
“When we do what we can, God will do what we can’t”
“Fasting trains us individually and as a community in piety and self-restraint; enables the society (the rich and the poor alike) to experience the pangs of hunger; and prepares the people to undergo any hardship to seek the guidance and the pleasure of God”
(Syed Abdul Aála Mawdudi: Islamic Way of Life)
Some of the Materials we can use
AACC Covenant document which the church leaders made during the AACC General Assembly in 2003. This can be downloaded from AACC website www.aacc-ceta.org.
An extract for the book Africapraying by Prof.Musa Dube a WCC publication to be used as a liturgy for the day
An extract of prayers from Uganda Namirembe Diocese Anglican Church Prayer Book, submitted by Canon Gideon Byamugisha at the AACC Heads of Churches Summit in June 2004, Nairobi, Kenya.
Roxi and David Owen
David and Roxi Owen are missionaries with the World Council of Churches located in Nairobi, Kenya. David serves as the Program Executive forEcumenical Focus on Africa. Roxi works with the Rosslyn Academy located in Nairobi, Kenya. She serves as a teacher.