Combating stigma and offering support to those with HIV/AIDS (Training of trainers) ‘24

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Through looking at his neighbors in his community as Christ would see them, The Rev. George Amimo realized that the religious leaders in his area have avoided ministering to people with HIV/AIDS and instead have a long and repeated history of being “judgemental, calling them as evil and sinners who should not come to the holy places of God.” George knew this must be changed, because the Gospel of Jesus Christ seeks to serve everyone in our communities, especially those who are marginalized by others. George discerned a call to develop a point of gathering, a convocation of religious leaders, social workers, and those hurt most greatly by the church – people living with HIV/AIDS.

By assembling this convocation, George invited the church to re-explore what it means to seek and serve others in the name of Christ. He invited people to express their fears, and the environment in the gathering space initially felt very tense, but as time went on, a new spirit of grace emerged. People began to openly share stories, and others expressed regret at the way in which their churches had treated people with HIV. One testimonial even included an ordained woman, a deacon, who was inhibited from ministry because of her HIV status. Her story brought home the difficulties that many people with HIV in Kenya face.

The workshop sought to keep people honest in their responses. There was full acknowledgment that many people had either little experience in ministering to people with HIV/AIDS or none at all. Through prayer and through mutual commitment to the work of the Gospel, those who participated took affirming steps towards new levels of self-growth and deepening their faith in the goodness of God in new ways.

Te group began to re-examine various stories in the Bible and seeking the face of Jesus in absolutely everyone – without judgment, without condemnation, but rather only with love. Many who attended recognized their previous prejudice and bias against those with HIV/AIDS. The community that gathered decided that new ministries needed to emerge to support and walk alongside people in their struggles. Not only were religious prejudices addressed, but people openly acknowledged the lack of good information to properly open their doors and welcome all people, including those with HIV.

The workshop concluded with many feeling a new call to open their doors and be changed by welcoming a new neighbor – a neighbor they had previously tried to avoid. The whole cohort of participants agreed that new measures must be taken immediately, including a think tank of clergy and lay people, along with people with HIV, who will stay in community with one another, and will find common ways in which all can glorify God’s goodness in the world.

Grant Year
2023-2024
Recipient Name
Amimo , The Rev. George
Seminary
School of Theology, Sewanee
Location
Africa