"Not one [African] head of state showed up at the Eleventh International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases held in Lukasa, Zambia, last September," Newsweek reported in its January 17 issue. "No [AIDS-prevention] program will be successful," it editorialized, "unless African leaders get their own priorities right."
Perhaps the African heads of state all just had conveniently conflicting appointments. But the church leaders of Africa did show up for their meeting: the joint UNAIDS consultation with Christian development organizations in Botswana. Ten top church leaders, including four bishops, met with medical and development experts, observed AIDS-related ministries, and set goals for church involvement. No longer in a state of denial, church leaders are confronting both the moral and the ministry issues posed by Africa's towering AIDS tragedy.
CHRISTIANITY TODAY's Timothy Morgan was one of three journalists, and the only one from the United States, to observe that meeting (see "Have We Become Too Busy With Death?" on page 36). Tim enjoyed the sessions, especially watching the church leaders' role-playing as a "bishop" trying to decide whether to carry his message of sexual fidelity to the disco scene. He was greatly impressed by the church leaders he met. "They are enormously resourceful and well-educated," he says, and in the face of crisis, they work with genuine mutual respect.
Deeper impressions came from Tim's "exposure visit" to the slums of Nairobi. The conferees were divided into six teams, visiting AIDS ministries outside their own countries. Because of the difficulty of travel in Africa, many African leaders have not traveled widely. "This was the genius of the exposure visits," Tim says.
"Most people don't realize how urbanized Africa has become," he says. One way of controlling the spread of AIDS is by slowing the migration to the cities, where young people looking for jobs are trapped in the sex trade and exposed to HIV. Near the end of the conference, the conferees were shown an intriguingly simple model for keeping 'em down on the farm. In Botswana's desert countryside, they visited a youth farm, where teenagers learn small-scale agricultural techniques that can be put to use in their villages. Basic agricultural education is saving lives.
• • •This is the last issue of CT to bear the strong imprint of Michael G. Maudlin's hand as managing editor—and the first in which his name appears with a new title: Online Executive Editor. "It's fun to start over," Mickey says about his new position.
Mickey is now responsible for encouraging independent online material from all of CTi's magazines. Beginning with the launch of ChristianityToday.com last November, we are no longer content just to post pages from the print magazine onto the Web. Mickey is also thinking about the Web's potential for connecting the church globally—for encouragement and support. And, to be sure, of deepening the impact of this magazine in places which the print medium is slow to reach.
Copyright © 2000 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.