30 September 2016 – “There is no… ‘us’ and ‘them’; there is only we. We are the body of Christ, we are infected with and affected by the HIV virus and the disease it causes.”
For theologian Shawn Copeland, this is the truly significant meaning underlying a new collection of essays about AIDS in Africa. The volume, published by Orbis Books and edited by African Jesuit academic Jacquineau Azetsop SJ, is a critical and comprehensive look at the pandemic by African scholars in Africa.
“Read this book,” advises Dr Copeland in her foreword to HIV and AIDS in Africa: Christian Reflection, Public Health, Social Transformation. Faced with yet another publication about AIDS in Africa, to add to the hundreds of others already out there, we may well need prompting.
Dr Copeland clearly explains why this new book is worth reading: not only do its admittedly weighty essays underline the inescapable theological reality that the body of Christ has AIDS, they also “radiate with creative thinking and energy”.
Says Dr Copeland: “This volume not only builds on prior theological reflection, it draws on ongoing and new multidisciplinary research in order to enrich and expand on that reflection.”
The rich diversity in the content bears Dr Copeland’s words out. Contributors offer analysis from theological, sociological, ecclesiological and public health perspectives. Neatly divided into seven parts, the 400-page-plus book makes a solid reference not only for theologians and academics, but also for pastoral agents and healthcare professionals, including administrators.
Positive reactions have already been forthcoming. Leading African scholar Emmanuel Katongole, from Notre Dame University in the US, has seriously engaged the pandemic through research and action. He put out a strong word for the book, saying: “A thoroughgoing theological engagement of HIV and AIDS in Africa has been long overdue. This collection of essays is a must-have and a must-read by every scholar, priest, social worker, pastoral agent and anyone seeking to understand Africa’s journey of pain and hope, and the faith that sustains that journey.”
Mary Getui, former chairperson of the Kenya National AIDS Control Council, wrote: “Comprehensive, interdisciplinary, rich and mind-jostling, this book is a beacon of hope as well as a wakeup call that challenges individuals and institutions within and outside Africa concerning HIV and AIDS on the continent.”
The book was launched at Arrupe College in Harare and three universities in the US in September. Similar events will follow in Nairobi, Rome, London and some venues in the US, up until early 2017. Of particular interest to our readers are two upcoming launches to be held in Nairobi, at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa and Hekima University College, on 14 and 15 October respectively.