Martin Ihezie SJ from the Jesuit Province of North-West Africa arrived at AJAN House in Nairobi in January 2015 to do his regency – a practical placement between studies. He shares his perceptions so far:
The German philosopher Martin Heidegger writes: “We are beings situated in an historical context.” In this historical context, we are always challenged to probe the events that shape our experiences and lives and, in turn, our perceptions.
When I rounded off my first studies as a Jesuit in Zimbabwe, my provincial asked me to go to AJAN. I had no particular expectations of the mission I had been asked to go for. As Jesuits, we are called to be “men for others”, to be always flexible and open to diverse ways of crossing the frontiers to work with love and compassion in areas of greatest need.
I knew, of course, that the AIDS pandemic has absorbed a great part of recent human history – in sub-Saharan Africa at least – and that this history will keep on reminding us of the devastating effects of this scourge. Many in the western world no longer see AIDS as a major problem because of advances in medicine. But the reality remains that a huge number of people in sub-Saharan Africa are affected and infected.
My perception of people who are living with HIV was that their future must look bleak without any hope of leading a quality life. Being at AJAN has changed this. As I meet and look at people living with HIV or AIDS, how they struggle to meet their daily needs, I am deeply touched. I have realized that they can definitely get on with their lives.
I am especially fascinated by Mirror of Hope (pictured above), a community-based organization in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa. AJAN supports Mirror of Hope in its efforts to bring women with HIV together, to teach them skills and to support their income-generating activities. Thanks to this help, and to the essential medication they take, the women are able to take care of their children and to overcome the stigma that continues to threaten them.
As I grapple with these realities, I have come to recognise that our experience of events shapes our perception. And when our perception is shaped, it enables us to go beyond our comfort zones and contribute to the development of a world more suitable for inhabiting.