A Voice from the Wilderness
“Due to the refugee crisis, many young people have been denied the chance to attend school and this exposes them to dangers of unprotected sex and early marriages. This is a big threat to many South Sudanese and if the HIV AIDS epidemic is not addressed, so many will perish.” Joice Jaka, United Methodist Women’s President, Uganda/South Sudan area of the United Methodist Church
Joice is one of the religious leaders who chose to lead her community in the Common Voice HIV AIDS Pledge, by organizing local religious leaders and community in the Rhino Refugee Camp in northwestern Uganda. Joice herself is a refugee. She translated the pledge into Juba Arabic for her community.
Religious leaders have a special obligation to promote health and wellness among their congregants, since faith traditions call for both inward and outward transformation. By coming together across faith traditions – inclusive of major world and indigenous religions – holistic change is not simply experienced by the individual, but by the community.
Joice practices Christian faith within the United Methodist tradition, whose founder is quoted as saying:
“It will be a double blessing if you give yourself up to the Great Physician, that He may heal soul and body together. And unquestionably this is His design. He wants to give you . . . both inward and outward health.” John Wesley (https://www.faithandhealthconnection.org/john-wesley-holistic-health-and-healing-interview-by-randy-maddox/)
The Common Voice HIV AIDS Awareness Pledge has provided a means of unity for interfaith cooperation throughout the world, and is now available in many languages. As the Pledge is now declared outwardly, the inward obligation must be elevated – motivating followers to practice what has been proclaimed. This requires action by religious communities in HIV AIDS prevention and treatment.
Joice calls for action within her setting – the Rhino Refugee Camp: “I hope for more education on HIV/AIDS, I hope for availability of medication at the reach of those living positive, I hope for availability of testing facilities to encourage many to know their status, I hope for a generation free from HIV and AIDS.”
Written by Rev. N. Neelley Hicks, clergy of The United Methodist Church & Founder of Harper Hill Global – a communications agency for social good.