This year I have spent a considerable time thinking about why the fight against extreme poverty and infectious disease is so important to me. Most of the time, people around me are supportive of the efforts in general terms. But there are people who are critical at times and it's even more discouraging when others seem to ignore or minimize the issues. I fight against HIV/AIDS not because it's popular or trendy or I have a hero complex or because I love causes. I fight it because my faith demands it.
Several years ago I attended a Citizen’s Advocacy Training in San Francisco that was hosted by the ONE Campaign. During a group brainstorming session on how to involve more people in the fight against HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty, someone suggested partnering with local churches. Without blinking an eye, someone immediately blurted out “Churches don’t care about people who are living with AIDS.” People chimed in agreement “Churches are judgemental!” “Churches don’t want to work with us, they only care about their own programs!”
At that point, I raised my hand and said somewhat apprehensively, “Well, I am a youth pastor and I believe that fighting against extreme poverty and AIDS is exactly what the church should be about.”
Many of the people responsible for leading the fight on AIDS are by their own description not people of faith. That doesn’t bother me, I believe in working with anyone who shares our goal: An AIDS free generation of people. What bothers me is that the church, God’s own instrument of compassion, justice, mercy, salvation has been so slow to respond.
At the end of the day, I still believe in the church as an instrument of hope for the world. And I believe that Jesus Christ is still the answer for the world. To turn a blind eye to the suffering of millions of people is antithetical to that faith. To refuse to fight for justice for the poor, the marginalized, the voiceless, is showing no faith at all. In choosing to do something as an act of faith, I choose action and reject apathy. I choose hope over despair. I choose love over cynicism.