In this issue of IRM that focuses on "God of Life, lead us to justice and peace" I wish to reflect on how women in Africa have joined God of Life in saying "No" to senseless death as a way of life due to, among other things, endemic violence, insecurity, poverty, diseases, trauma, and leadership crisis. By focusing on narratives that depict African women's engagement in God's mission, I attempt to demonstrate their courage to act and to speak truth to power. Put differently, these women have heeded life-giving messages of justice and peace in the scriptures that lead them daily to reimagining resurrection here and now against unspeakable corruption, arrogance, and total disregard for God's immeasurable gifts of love, forgiveness, kindness, unity, and fullness of life. These are ordinary women who act with extraordinary courage because they are tired of lies about themselves and about Africa. They have identified deeply entrenched injustices about women and about Africa that have condemned them to a life of endless struggle and misery. These women want more than justice and peace: They want life after birth in its abundance!
The global HIV pandemic is one of the greatest tragedies of our time. It has affected Africa and women in particular with disproportionate magnitude. UNAID statistics reveal why women in Africa are facing sleepless nights and an endless struggle for life after birth: 76% of all women living with HIV in the world make their home in Sub-Saharan Africa. (1) And because of Africa's demographics, most of these women are of childbearing age.
When I first cast my eyes on this number, I thought UNAIDS must have made a terrible mistake. As I looked through the rest of the statistics it became clear that something has definitely gone very wrong: What exactly do these numbers mean and say about daughters of Africa? How did we get here? What are we doing wrong--or not doing right? How can this be: A continent of great wealth and beauty whose infants, daughters, and mothers perish needlessly? What kind of narratives have we scripted for ourselves?
Certainly these statistics are outrageous, brutal, unacceptable, and disgusting in the eyes of God and all God-fearing people. Millions of women have died, some with their offspring, but those who have survived, their caregivers, and resource providers have refused to give up. HIV is such an assault on the gift of life, especially because it is transmitted through fluids that signify life: blood, semen, amniotic fluids, and breast milk. As a result, the search for justice and peace is not enough: women know they must protect life at any cost. In the process, women have done much soul-searching. They have dug deep into their "her-stories", scrutinized Christian faith and the ways scriptures, cultures, traditions, and religions have been interpreted and articulated to understand this monster in their midst. Because premature death has in many cases become the way of life, the daily prayer of these women is to experience resurrection here and now. This painstaking journey of the HIV pandemic has revealed that women in Africa care greatly not just for life after death, but for life after birth. (2) Even though many of these women remain faithful members of their churches, many have created life-giving initiatives and ministries and are acting "out of the box" as they define new paradigms of life. Above all, as we shall see in the following sections, they are writing about their efforts and struggles. (3) The HIV pandemic, indeed, is just one of the many pandemics in Africa that demand the attention of the churches and the global ecumenical movement, as we shall see shortly.
Doing justice in the trenches of society
The struggle for life after birth in the context of HIV is a daunting responsibility and requires a holistic praxis. (4) The women reflected in this section have learned the hard way that piecemeal praxis only complicates their lives: the HIV pandemic has multifaceted layers of injustices and life-denying patriarchal values. …