I bought a book yesterday (well, strictly I haven’t bought it yet – the Principal of Westcott bought it and I need to pay him back for it!) I bought it in preparation for my visit to South Africa. Well, I can say that but in reality I bought it because I had just heard the writer of it speak and I wanted to read more about what he had to say. The speaker was Rev. Canon Dr. Gideon Byamugisha – a Ugandan priest who broke new ground when he publicly declared his HIV+ status in 1992 and who has since worked to combat the widespread stigma and discrimination that surrounds HIV and AIDS in Africa and around the world.
My fellow blogger, Katielou, gives a good synopsis of his lecture here so I will not go over that. Suffice to say he was an incredibly engaging, positive, enthusiastic speaker, who spoke lovingly and challengingly about the need for Christians to engage with a new paradigm of thinking when it comes to our reaction and interaction with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I was privileged to also get to spend some time later in the evening speaking with him one-to-one as I kept him company in the Westcott Common Room. We had a wonderful conversation, talking not only about the themes touched upon in his lecture, but also about ecumenism, and cross-cultural encounters, and theological training, and life at Cambridge. It truly was a wonderful experience, and one I am sure I will not forget.
As Katielou mentions in her blog, this is a very positive contrast to the previous unforgettable time that another Ugandan speaker spoke in the Federation. My hearing and talking to Canon Gideon has left me both more excited and more nervous about my upcoming trip to South Africa: he presented a very positive image of the church in Africa but he also painted a picture of a continent for which it is impossible to fully prepare oneself to experience. I guess I already knew this to be the case, but yesterday brought home the reality of that situation.
In order to do as much preparing as possible I will read Canon Gideon’s book, Church Communities Confronting HIV & AIDS (2010, London: SPCK). I will also remember the positive story that Gideon himself presented, which is intimately wrapped up with the words of the title of this blog – which are, not co-incidentally, the names of his two daughters with his second, HIV+, wife, both of whom are HIV- (as is his daughter, Patience, from his first marriage).
It is not only in the area of HIV/AIDS that we Christians will have failed in if we do not manage to offer genuine love and hope to the world!