Posts Tagged ‘AIDS’
Two African Jesuits completing their doctorates in health care at Georgetown spoke to students, faculty and staff last week about their plans to return to the country to help their communities.
The talk, “Jesuits in Africa: The Hope of International Development” was part of Jesuit Heritage Week, which began on Jan. 29 and ran through Feb. 4.
“Jesuits are working in 28 out of 54 African countries today,” noted Jesuit Father Rodrigue Takoudjou.“We African Jesuits clearly perceive health care and education as priorities in our ministries.”
Fr. Takoudjuou, of Cameroon, is getting his Ph.D. in pharmacology, plans to teach at a Jesuit medical school in Chad.
One of the main health care issues that Jesuits are helping combat in Africa is HIV/AIDS, mostly through organizations such as The African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN).
“AJAN’s mission is to stimulate and coordinate the work of African Jesuits in responding to HIV and AIDS in an effective, coordinated and evangelical manner, culturally sensitive and spiritually grounded,” he explained. “The African Jesuits are involved in more than 100 HIV/AIDS initiatives throughout the continent.”
Fellow panelist Jesuit Father Jean-Baptiste Mazarati, of Rwanda, will teach at the state medical school in his country when he graduates with a doctorate in tumor biology in 2012.
“Africa stands in the world as a big question mark. So who will answer that question?” Mazarati said. “It is a question of endemic poverty. It is a question of endemic disease. It is a question of endemic conflicts. It is a question of lack of leadership. …It is a question of a continent that holds so much richness, yet is struggling to take off.”
Africa also has a large population of children, he said, so there is a strong need for educational advancements.
Jesuits are sending Rwandan priests around the world to seek higher education in the sciences, social sciences and development “to make sure that tomorrow we come back to Rwanda stronger,” and ready to teach, Mazarati said.
Carol Lancaster, dean of the School of Foreign Service, moderated the event. Katherine Marshall, a senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, also participated in the panel discussion.
“Jesuits have made such a contribution to this university and to the world,” Lancaster said.
The Jesuits’ personal stories of mission and ministry in Africa enlightened, yet posed more questions for some in the audience.
“The intersection between religion and African development is an extremely interesting field that must be further explored to fully understand the challenges and hopes of development,” said Vivian Ojo, who helped organize the event with Mariana Santos.
“The Jesuits provided some answers to some of the most difficult questions [plaguing Africa],” Ojo added. “I left the conversation with a desire to search for more answers about a topic not often explored.”
More than one million people live in Nairobi’s squatter community of Kibera, including 30,000 orphans of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Recently, Chicago Public Media spoke with Jesuit Father Global Terry Charlton, co-founder of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a unique Catholic high school designed specifically for young people affected by HIV and AIDS in the Kibera slums.
In 2001, as Charlton visited people suffering from AIDS, he kept hearing a repeated concerns for the children of those suffering, primarily about the child’s ongoing education.
“There is free universal primary education in Kenya, but all secondary education, including at the government schools is for a cost, and a cost that would be far beyond the means of these people mired in poverty because of their illness, not able to hold jobs and that sort of thing. So in 2003 our school decided to sponsor 12 of their children for freshman year of high school,” said Father Charlton.
Working to help more children in the same situation, Charlton opened a school for 25 students in 2004. Through the support of many people from around the World, plus a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Government, they have been able to build a school that now accommodates 280 students.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga High School is located in the impoverished Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya and is dedicated to serving AIDS affected youth. With nearly 1 million inhabitants, Kibera is the largest slum in sub-Saharan Africa. In order to be admitted to the school, students must have lost one or both of their parents to HIV/AIDS and their surviving parents must also be afflicted with the disease. Jesuit Father Terry Charlton co-founded the school in 2003, which recently open a new building to its 280 students.
St. Aloysius is based on the Jesuit model of Catholic education and serves bright youngsters of all faith backgrounds who are at risk by providing a college preparatory education and support to overcome the deficits of their environment. Their educational philosophy is based on the Ignatian principals to become men and women for others who are dedicated to bettering society. Even facing such challenges as dire poverty and being orphaned, the children of the school take its motto to “live, love and learn” to heart.
You can read more about Fr. Charlton’s vision for St. Aloysius here or by watching the video below: