SOUTHERN AFRICA: Archbishop thanks U.K. Government for support of HIV/AIDS work

September 30, 2009

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa has thanked the U.K. Government and its tax-payers for their support of his church's work with those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.

Speaking in Johannesburg September 28 at a workshop run by the Anglican AIDS and Healthcare Trust (in partnership with the UK's Department for International Development), Makgoba said, "You have helped us achieve the purposes for which this trust was created."

The meeting brings together representatives of the U.K. Government, staff of the trust, and bishops and other participants from across the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. Over three days they are reviewing progress on the U.K.-funded Siyakha ("We are building") Project, and sharing best practices around the themes of prevention; treatment, care and support; income generation; and sustainability.

In his opening address, the archbishop expressed gratitude also to the coordinators and volunteers from across the church. "You are the ones who take the vision and make it live," he said, acknowledging that although there is much to do, and challenging tasks ahead, it is also a time for celebrating so much that is already happening. "Orphans and vulnerable children are being better cared for; more people are receiving home-based care; more people are testing -- and getting the treatment they need; more people are earning some cash income to supplement their diet, assist with school fees, and meet the basic needs of life; and more young people know about HIV prevention, and are developing the personal skills to protect themselves from HIV and AIDS."

He added: "And all this is just the tip of the iceberg of the holistic care that we aim to share and develop within the communities of which we are a part."

Commending Sabelo Mashwama, CEO of the trust, and his staff, the archbishop placed this work within the church's wider goal of sharing Christ's promise of "life in abundance" with all people, bringing healing and wholeness in every dimension of life.

Referring to Jesus' lesson to his disciples that "whoever welcomes a child in my name, welcomes me -- for the least among you is the greatest," Makgoba said that the church's concern, like that of Jesus, must be the well-being of every human person, every child of God, especially those who were less able to care for themselves.

In this regard, Makgoba expressed concern at reports that the South African Government was failing unequivocally to promote full equality for women before the law, in debates at the Human Rights Commission in Geneva. He called on the government to ensure the upholding of its commitment to women's rights, which he described as "so important in the battle against HIV and AIDS ... This is especially so in our region, where gender inequality has been identified as one of the drivers of the pandemic, wherever women have limited or no power to protect themselves against infection."

Putting others first was to put God first, said the archbishop, and putting God first would enable people to draw on his energy and commitment, when the responsibilities of caring for others risked becoming exhausting or demoralizing. He therefore stressed the importance of ensuring time to "rest in God and find his refreshment." Makgoba also noted that welcoming others as if welcoming Christ himself ensured that people were treated with appropriate dignity and respect. "We are not to deal with people as if they are children in the childish sense -- as if they are immature and we alone are adults," he said.

Recalling Jesus' words that "whoever is not against you is for you," the archbishop commended collaboration with all who share the same overall goal, from international partners through to appropriate bodies in every sector of society including at parish level. He affirmed the trust's long-term commitment to working cooperatively.

Makgoba ended his address by praying that God would bless those present through their time together and beyond, and make them a rich blessing to others.