Jump directly to the content

Christmas Reflections on HIV/AIDS and sexual violence

Ugandan pastor prays for an end to sexual violence in Africa.

My three children and I love to watch The Charlie Brown Christmas Special on video every December. It's hard to believe that was made in 1965. Charlie's question "Can any one tell me what Christmas is all about?" is a haunting one indeed.

That's not the only haunting question at Christmastime. Rev. Martin Ssempa, who I believe is one of Africa's most passionate church leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS, has been published in a leading Ugandan newspaper, asking what can be done about sexual violence associated with HIV/AIDS.

Rev. Ssempa, who spoke at the first Saddleback HIV/AIDS conference, said:

This Christmas I am praying for the end of sexual violence in Africa. Last week the High Court in South Africa's Cape convicted George Mugalula who killed his five year-old stepdaughter Aakifah Salie due to marital frustrations with his wife, also Aakifah's mother, Faiza Salie. According to court documents, Mugalula was angered and tortured by his wife's many affairs and secret work as a prostitute at "Paradise Penthouse", a massage parlour in Cape Town. Apparently he thought that his wife was working in a night painterly but was shocked to discover that she was listed as one of the playgirls in Paradise Penthouse. This apparently triggered off his violent behaviour which in the end was directed at the vulnerable five year-old who bore the brunt of his traumatised love.

In some African nations, there's a persistent belief, promoted by 'traditional healers,' that sexual relations with a virgin are a cure for HIV/AIDS.

Rev. Ssempa notes:

We need the gospel to dispel the dangerously grotesque idea that sex with a virgin girl can cure HIV/AIDS. This prescription spread by African traditional healers in East and Southern Africa has multiplied sexual violence among virgin young girls and boys. There is a need to condemn this practice both by the perpetrators as well as the healers who perpetuate his dangerous idea.

Among quite a few health care leaders, there's a professional reluctance to address the false traditional belief systems that have arisen in addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Traditional healers are often revered and feared figures in village life. The church has the moral authority to take on harmful beliefs and practices without demonizing the messengers.

At the end of his article, Ssempa points a way forward: Pray & Work.

This Christmas we need to pray and work for the victims of sexual violence that the peace of God will come to them. We also need to pray that the systems which entrench this evil will be broken. May the prince of peace bring a cessation of sexual violence in our land.

Merry Christmas!

Related Topics:Aids and HIV
Posted:December 24, 2007 at 8:32AM
Gleanings aggregates what others are reporting. Learn more.
Recent Posts
Can Wheaton College Require ROTC Program Be Run By Christians?
US Army reviews nationwide policy for ROTC profs, who are paid by military but work as full-time faculty.
Died: R. Judson Carlberg, Christian Higher Ed Leader, Biologos Chair
On Thanksgiving, he once wrote, 'I am thankful for cancer. James 1:2-3... Life is richer, trust is stronger and relationships are deeper.'
Politics
President Obama Cites Exodus on Immigration Reform: 'We Were Strangers Once Too'
(UPDATED) Reactions from Sam Rodriguez, Russell Moore, Jenny Yang, Noel Castellanos on Obama's motive vs. method.
Pope Francis Learns What Rick Warren, Russell Moore, N. T. Wright Think about Marriage
(UPDATED) Warren turns Vatican conference into 'revivalist meeting,' while Moore explains why marriage crosses theological boundaries.
Christianity Today
Christmas Reflections on HIV/AIDS and sexual violence