20170126_105548Dear friends,

HIV & AIDS was first identified almost four decades ago in the 1980’s.  Research shows that South Africa still has the highest incidence of the disease in the world, with an estimated 7 million people living with HIV in 2015.  South Africa also has the largest antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme globally. However, HIV prevalence remains high (19.2%) among the general population, and at almost 40% in some areas. See http://www.avert.org

The Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) with 15 member churches across 10 countries is the sub-regional expression of the Lutheran World Federation in Southern Africa www.lucsa.org.  In January 2017 the LUCSA AIDS ACTION PROGRAMME published a new book entitled LUCSA Resource for Lutheran Leagues and Ministries.  Recently, the writers along with pastors and lay leaders representing LUCSA member churches gathered in Johannesburg for a training of trainers’ workshop and book launch.  The four units and 48 lessons in the book provide a structured curriculum for study of the Bible, Lutheran doctrine, mission and diakonia with a special emphasis on the mainstreaming of HIV & AIDS into the policies, programmes, thinking and life of the church. Mainstreaming is a process that addresses both the direct and indirect factors that increase the risks of HIV infection and worsen the impact of AIDS including stigma.

At the workshop Pastor NM Myaka gave a presentation based on Martin Luther’s open letter from 1527, “WHETHER ONE MAY FLEE FROM A DEADLY PLAGUE.” The Bubonic plague killed one-fourth of the population of Europe from the 14th to the 16th centuries. In 1527, fearing for the safety of Luther and the other professors at the university, Elector John, ordered the university to be moved to Jena. However, Luther and his wife Katie, along with his pastor Bugenhagen, stayed to minister to the sick and frightened people.

Luther wrote:  Anyone who does not do that for his neighbor, but forsakes him and leaves him to his misfortune, becomes a murderer in the sight of God, as St. John states in his epistles, “Whoever does not love his brother is a murderer,” and again, “If anyone has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need [yet closes his heart against him], how does God’s love abide in him?” [I John 3:15, 17].

In his presentation Pastor Myaka noted: “My main concern is with the church’s failure to translate its good theological writings into corresponding action. I wish to conclude by applauding LUCSA in general, the LUCSA HIV AND AIDS DESK team in particular, the project coordinators, contributors, editorial team and everyone involved in this project for working diligently and tenaciously towards putting together this resource material. I know that by challenging the leagues [for women, men and youth] and ministries of the church, LUCSA has struck a necessary chord.”  3000 copies of the book are being printed for distribution among the LUCSA member churches in Southern Africa.

ELCA World Hunger is one of the main supporters of the LUCSA HIV & AIDS Programme. I was privileged to be part of the editorial team for this new resource book.

Thank you for your prayers, support and participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson,  ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative, Southern Africa

February 1, 2017