"When the House of Bishops met in Niagara Falls, Ont., from April 13 to 17 , they discussed some contentious issues, including possible amendments to the marriage canon and a call from the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) for significant changes to church structures. But Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said there was, nevertheless, 'a spirit of hopefulness' at the gathering". "The bishops discussed the document, 'Where We Are Today: Twenty Years after the Covenant, an Indigenous Call to Church Leadership', in terms of what they thought needed more clarification, what they found encouraging and what they found challenging." "Hiltz observed that what underlies much of these discussions is the question, 'What is everybody's understanding of self-determination ?' This is a conversation that needs to continue, he said. People are not sure what self-determination will mean in terms of concrete changes, said Hiltz". "Bishops also endorsed the #22days campaign calling Anglicans to commit to working toward healing and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. ... Hiltz noted that Bishop Robert Hardwick of the diocese of Qu'Appelle shared plans to ring church bells for murdered and missing women and girls, and other bishops decided that could be done in all of their dioceses".
December 01, 2009 - An interview with the Rev. Patricia Sawo, a church leader and mother living with HIV in Kenya inspired Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to entitle his World Aids Day Message A Space for Hope. Patricia says of her church "My congregation knows about my status and people in my church know that this is a place where, if they come with HIV, they can be loved." The Archbishop says "when the Church is doing its job, it is providing space for people to face themselves, to be themselves, and to cope with the future."
On my trip to Burundi in February, I saw numerous examples of that kind of space. Let me cite just two. In the heart of the city of Bujumbura there is an HIV/AIDS clinic. Above the main entrance of the administration building is a sign stating that the building was renovated though a gift of the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) of the Anglican Church of Canada. That gift inspired other churches in the city to make contributions to expand the services of this clinic which serves teens and young adults who have been orphaned through AIDS. Most of them live on the street and their life is very rough. The clinic is a haven where they can learn about HIV/AIDS, get tested and if necessary receive treatment and counseling. As the Archbishop says, they can "face themselves, be themselves, and cope with the future."
Up in the hills, "in the bush" as Burundians say, in the village of Bitare, I and Cheryl Curtis (Executive Director of PWRDF) and Maureen Bailey (Youth Council, PWRDF) were invited to assist local people in laying the foundation stone for a new HIV/AIDS clinic. It was very humbling to kneel down and share in that work as hundreds of people looked on and sang and prayed for God's blessing on this project. The building is now complete and providing services to hundreds of people in Bitare and a number of surrounding villages. Individuals and families are feeling support and care. Lives are being changed and hope is rising like the glory of a new day.
This coming Sunday, the second in Advent, I ask that throughout the Church, prayers of special intent for those living with HIV/AIDS be included in the Prayers of the People. Pray for their caregivers and for their doctors and nurses and clergy. Pray especially for the work of the Mother's Union in Africa and their deep and steadfast commitment to helping those who are living with AIDS and those who have been widowed and orphaned through AIDS, and those who are caring for their grandchildren. Pray for those engaged in education about healthy sexuality and the prevention of AIDS. And as we pray for the eradication of the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, pray also for that "space" the Church is called to provide where people can be welcomed and free to face themselves and be themselves without fear of rejection; where through loving care and support they can cope with their future. This calling is after the very example of Our Lord who reached out and "touched" (Mark 1: 40-41) the sick with love and mercy.
I encourage one and all to pray, to support the continuing work with HIV/AIDS, and to stand with all those who are pressuring world leaders, in the words of one of the Millennium Development Goals, "to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases." I issue this call in the name of him whose Advent sets us free, whose love brings healing and hope to all.
The author considers "the over 600 missing and murdered indigenous women -- women who died because of their vulnerability to violence, women whose deaths seem neither to be mourned nor even noticed by the government of Canada and the majority of the Canadian public. There are close to one and a half million indigenous people in Canada, slightly more than the population of Ottawa. Imagine if 600 women from Ottawa were to disappear in a similar fashion. Would the government -- or anyone -- tolerate their disappearance ? Wouldn't we work urgently and tirelessly until every woman was accounted for, until all women were safe ?" "We are sadly, witnesses of such hideous evil -- certainly, in the growing worldwide poverty, which so disproportionately impacts women and children, but just as really and dramatically in the indigenous women whose tragic lives have been denied justice".
Author is "national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada".