In my work as founder and director of The Balm In Gilead I have been honored and humbled to walk among holy men and women from diverse backgrounds and faiths throughout our world. Regardless of their geographical location or if they are Christians, Muslims, Jews or members of other great spiritual paths, I have found that they all have a few things in common: They believe in a God who loves unconditionally, a God who forgives sin and a God who heals the sick, regardless of the origin of the disease. They all believe in the power of prayer.
Unfortunately, there is a colorful, dark side that continues to be at war within the hearts and minds of many believers. Too often our faith leaders ignore their fundamental belief in a God that loves, forgives and heals when it comes to those affected by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The faith communities’ response to the AIDS epidemic overall has unveiled a deep, dark evil that exists within the spiritual society of holiness.
Still there are many spiritual leaders of diverse faiths who are standing tall on this World AIDS Day and declaring God’s unconditional love for all people, including those living with HIV, who might be gay, straight, addicted, obese, sex workers, transgender or diabetic. Christian and Muslim leaders are working together, defying those who hate unity or peace, to educate their communities about HIV prevention. They are speaking out on behalf of abstinence, condom use, needle exchange and HIV testing. These spiritual leaders have decided that God’s unconditional love mandates them to save a life and then a soul.
Leaders and members of faith communities who have freed themselves from the dark side of holy actions of hate, must now rise up as public health advocates. These courageous holy men and women must shout from their holy places that the world is experiencing a public health crisis. AIDS is not the devil. It is a disease that is caused by a virus. The virus is not deterred or killed by one’s belief in God or the number of times one makes prayers per day. HIV can be stopped by the implementation of proven public health prevention strategies and the daily actions of unconditional love and service. Faith leaders and members must work with local governments, public health departments and ministries of health to ensure that the spread of HIV is stopped in their local communities and in the world. This is an on-going process and requires daily focus.