“Jesuit Apostolate of Care, Compassion and Protection”
It is since June 21, 2002 that the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN) was created by the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar, then JESAM, directed at the time by Father Valerian Shirima, SJ. It is therefore in a context of serious health crisis that this network was born in 2002, 20 years after HIV was discovered.
As of July 2002, UNAIDS reported a total of 40 million people living with HIV, including 37.1 million adults; 18.5 million women and 3 million young people under the age of 15. Sub-Saharan Africa had 28 million. The deaths recorded were 3 million. Orphans were counted at 14 million (child having lost either both or one of the parents because of the virus). New infections were estimated at 5 million, including 800,000 in children and young people under 15 years of age. This virus spares no one young children and adults all we are exposed.
Faced with such a situation, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Africa, in particular, whose mission is the propagation of the faith and the promotion of justice, could not remain silent and remains inert. There was danger in the house. Her mission of evangelization and the souls she is tasked with saving were in danger.
Following the Jesuits’ letter in Africa on the HIV situation, Father Superior General Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach asked the Jesuits to carry out intense and coordinated actions to counter this virus.
In his letter of 15 June 2002 to all the Jesuits of Africa and Madagascar, Creating AJAN, Father Valerian Shirima, SJ writes: “I am very pleased to announce that the major superiors of Africa and Madagascar have created AJAN (African Jesuit Network AIDS Network) as a work of assistance (conference) and will have to enjoy an important priority”. His principal is based on 3 axes, he continues:
1. Help Jesuits in every African country where there are AIDS initiatives to respond effectively to HIV and AIDS by bringing together the people involved in a working group.
2. Bring these different national initiatives together so that they form step by step an effective Continental Jesuit Network, with its own voice and its ability to act in a coordinated manner.
3. Develop good cooperative relations with many other groups and associations, and with the universal Church and Society of Jesus, relationships based on the sharing of information, expertise and financial resources.
To carry out its mission AJAN is inspired by two great figures of the Church who are its patrons: Blessed Marie-Clémentine Anuarite Nengapeta. A young Congolese nun, a woman of integrity who, despite everything, has to say “no” to injustice and violence and St Louis de Gonzague, who gave her life in the service of people affected by the pandemic. Through their intercession AJAN carries out its mission to care for, protect, accompany and promote the dignity of the most vulnerable including young people (always in search of their identity) without leaving anyone behind.
Yes, AJAN across Africa carries higher the inaudible voices of these thousands of orphans forgotten in our streets, cities and villages; it carries the voice and the concerns of these people: young girls and boys, women and men discriminated against, rejected by the simple fact that they have this tiny invisible virus in their body. AJAN carries the voice of these men and women crushed by leprosy, poverty and many other evils which cause suffering and desolation and therefore rob them of their dignity and sometimes plunge them into sub-human living conditions.
“Everything you do to one of the smallest who are my brothers, you do to me,” our Master and Savior Jesus Christ reminds us (Jn. 25:40). AJAN across the African continent is motivated by these words of Christ. Its Affiliated Centers on the ground serve Christ to restore dignity, joy (smile) to the most vulnerable members of the society.
Today AJAN is present in 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and its ambition is to cover all of Africa wherever the Jesuits work since the threat of a dignified, fulfilled and happy life threatened by HIV about 40 years ago is still there and takes many forms today.
AJAN’s field of intervention
- As Secretariat
- Supporting Jesuit centers to respond to HIV
- Develop programs to support fieldwork (AHAPPY) for young people
- Research and Publication (more than 20 books published)
- Advocacy for universal access to care and treatment, for human dignity, against stigma, and injustices and other causes of the spread of HIV.
- AJAN As a Field Centre;
- Medical and nutritional care
- Accompaniment (spiritual, psychosocial, etc.)
- Economic support (AGR, vocational training)
- Education (OVC, vulnerable youth)
- HIV prevention and PMTCT
- Fighting poverty through youth entrepreneurship
- Protection of the planet.
Meaning of our celebration.
Our celebration has four meanings:
1°. To give thanks to the Lord for his graces, his support for this work that he himself wanted and which continues to do good and transform the lives of several hundred thousand individuals and families.
“If the Lord does not build the house, it is in vain that those who build work. If the Lord does not guard the city, it is in vain that the guard watches” (Ps. 127.1).
*the opportunity to celebrate the achievements made together as a Network and the impact that the lives transformed by AJAN’s action on the continent is making on our society and community;
* Opportunity to share experiences that have been mapped to inspire and enrich each other.
* The opportunity to evaluate our commitment and lay new foundations to move forward in deep water taking into account the changing context of our workplace. That was the subject of the AJAN 2022 General Assembly, held on 6 June 2022.
In 2022, 20 years later, UNAIDS reports the following: a total shadow of 37.7 million people living with HIV, including 36 million adults and 1.5 million young people under the age of 15, 680. 000 deaths. New infections are estimated at 1.5 million (63% of whom are women and girls); 73% of PLHIV have access to ART. (See UNAIDS Report 2020). Every day there are about 4,000 new infections (60% of them in sub-Saharan Africa).
- Mobilization of the resources reinforced ,
- Improved reporting with a credible system.
- The existence of an operational development office;
- Continuous capacity building of affiliated centers
- The existence of the Youth Prevention Program (AHAPPY).
- Development of standard management tools (documents)
Our perspective for the future (PS AJAN 2021-20 25)
- Extend AJAN’s mandate beyond HIV. Provide holistic HIV medical care.
- Young people are at the center of our action (they are more than 60% of Africa’s population and must be followed, accompanied for a prosperous and pandemic-free Africa)
- Further expand our field of technical and financial partners
- Further strengthen field centers. Work for more financial autonomy.
- Strengthen the field of research and publication.
Our gratitude first of all to God without whom we could not go so far. “If the Lord does not build the house, it is in vain that those who build work. If the Lord does not guard the city, it is in vain that the guardian watches” (Ps. 127.1).
To fellow Jesuits: Father General, President of JCAM, Regional Superior Rwanda-Burundi, Father General’s Secretary for Social Justice and Ecology, Coordinator of the social apostolate of JCAM. The different Directors of different centers here present and represented.
Thank you to the initiators of AJAN including Father Muhigirwa Ferndiand, Cardinal Michael Czerny, Father Ted Rogers, Valerian Shirima.
Our deep gratitude to the former Directors of AJAN: Car Czerny, Father Mombe, Father Quenum, Fr. Kubanabantu, (here present). Special thanks to Fr. Désiré Yamuremye, first Director of SYM, (We are following in his footsteps today).
Our gratitude to the Burundian government which spares no effort to support Yezu Mwiza in particular via the minisanté, minijeunesse, etc. May all its representatives here present find here the expression of our deep gratitude.
Thank you to our beneficiaries here present and thousands of others elsewhere. It is you, it is your life that we celebrate on this day. Continue to carry life with optimism, courage and faith.
Thank you to our lay collaborators. Thank you for your confidence in us Jesuits and for your faithfulness in supporting us in the mission. Among you, there are those who have been with us for more than 15 years. Your commitment and efficiency is well established. Thank you and may God bless you more with your respective families.
A big special thank you to Service Yezu Mwiza, Father Vedaste Nkenshimana and all the staff. For a month you have been in the oven and at the mill to prepare a good celebration for us.
Thank you to each and every one of you for coming to join us. It is a sign of love, consideration and great support. We feel that we are not alone in this struggle. Thank you for your love and may God, master of times and circumstances, bless you abundantly.
Murakoze chane!! Happy holiday !!
Fr Ismael Matambura
I was honoured to be part of the celebrations and I bear witness that AJAN has left and continues to leave a positive imprint in the lives of many African people.