As I write my Christmas message, my thoughts go out to some children I visited a year ago, in an orphanage set up by the Jesuits and a religious congregation in Fonte Boa, Mozambique. Some eight to ten children live there with a foster mother and assistant. What they have in common is that they are orphans, most of whom have lost their parents to AIDS. I remember especially the youngest one; from his face, I could see how traumatized he was by his mother’s death and the upheaval in his life, unable to understand why he and his elder sister had ended up in this place.
My thoughts go out to my own nephews, orphaned by AIDS, who are being cared for by one of my younger sisters. Just a few days ago, she shared with me the challenges she faced to get them in school, how it was only thanks to the generosity of friends and relatives that she managed.
Indeed, limited resources often discourage many from taking on the heavy burden of raising extra children. AIDS-afflicted children face so many challenges; some lack clothes, daily meals, even shelter. The biggest challenge is to give them hope for the future by ensuring that they can go to school; this is crucial if they are to claim the right to a healthy and happy life as other children who are their age enjoy.
Very often, children afflicted by AIDS are like the Son of God who could not find a proper place to stay: “Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)
In the little divine child of Bethlehem, we contemplate the face of God who identifies Himself with the poor, needy, homeless and marginalized of our society. At Christmas, we welcome the only Son of God into our human history, who comes to share the Good News of God’s plan of love for us: “I know what plans I have in mind for you, Yahweh declares, plans for peace, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11).
This is our prayer for children affected by AIDS and all those who face similarly heavy problems due to other predicaments. This is our prayer for you, who accompany us and give us your support: that God’s plan will become a reality in the life of all, and that His Son will bring to us all His blessings at Christmas and throughout the year 2013.
May the birth of Christ bring the germ of new life, to grow in our hearts and blossom in charity, witnessing God’s love and bounty to all, especially the needy everywhere, every time.
Full of gratitude and hope, the AJAN team comes together to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2013, rich in blessings, joy, and great achievement.
If you want to contribute to the AJAN appeal for Jesuit projects for orphans and vulnerable children in Africa, please click here. Thank you!