Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Fading Light, A Hidden City

By Akin Ojumu

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:14 KJV).

I was in Mexico City the other day, attending the annual meeting of the International AIDS Society (IAS), AIDS 2008. The meeting lasted 6 days and 6 nights, each filled with stuff that’ll make the skin crawl and many a righteous soul sick. It was 6 days of wanton display of the debasement of the human spirits and 6 nights of parade of sickened souls; men and women, in one accord, provoking to wrath the Almighty God.

And I was there, for 5 of those nights and 5 of those days, when evil descended upon the Hill of Mexico. I sat there and watched as the principalities, the powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and the spiritual wickedness in high places took over Mexico City. Crouched and crunched in a corner, I was bedazzled with mind numbing revelry and debauchery.

The AIDS 2008 was supposed to provide opportunities for the presentation of important new scientific research and for productive, structured dialogue on the major challenges facing the global response to AIDS. I was looking forward to attending a wide variety of session types that would enhance my understanding of the disease. Instead I was confronted with the basest of the ugliness of hearts of men who have gone berserk.

It’s over a week since I got back, yet the stench of the corruption still stings as I write this. It was such a putrefying sight. Word fails me in describing what I saw and heard in Mexico. But I’ll try and paint the picture for you to see.

The meeting was well underway by the time I got there. Like a blast of scalding steam blown into the face, I was welcomed to the meeting with a program booklet and a sachet of condoms. That was the first inkling that I was in for a ride of my life.

Why in the world would I need a sachet of condom at a scientific meeting? The answer would come soon enough.

You hear a lot about Harm Reduction in the field of HIV-AIDS these days. It is the prevalent thinking among most of the so-called experts. As a universal theme, it thread across the different talks and presentations given at the AIDS 2008 meeting.

In very recent past behavioral change was the gold-standard of HIV-AIDS Prevention efforts. It was packaged and pushed by all stakeholders. But now behavioral change has been jettisoned for reduction of harm.

The prostitutes – oops- sex workers for instance no longer want to be discouraged from selling their bodies for money. They instead are demanding full recognition of their “profession”. And they were given the platform at the meeting to spew their venomous ideas.

Take for instance the talk given by one Ms E.R., a prostitute from Argentina. Ms E.R., of the Argentina Association of Female Sex workers, issued a “stirring” call for the full recognition of sex workers’ rights and for the ability of sex worker organizations to develop and implement effective HIV/AIDS programs rooted in the realities of their lives. E.R. stated that evidence shows HIV prevalence has been lowered in regions such as South America, where sex work is actually recognized as “work”. According to her, critical to reducing HIV infections among sex workers is fighting stigma and discrimination by continued efforts to decriminalize sexual work, end police violence, and sensitize the media. She rejected programs that respond to these conditions by seeking to rehabilitate or retrain workers stating that there is no scientific evidence that they are effective in stopping HIV. Instead she called for freedom from repression as the best way to build an effective response to HIV among sex workers. She concluded her presentation with the following statements:

“We don’t want to cook. We don’t want to knit. We don’t want to bake. All we want to do is have sex!!!!”

I was dumbstruck to say the least. I felt sick in the pit of my stomach. But they were not done with me yet. Another session was dedicated to men who have sex with men (MSM).

The speaker at that session is another one of those experts in the field. Here was how they introduced him - well “her” really.

“…..a man of principal (sic) and actions, Dr. J.S. is a physician and a public health specialist. Dr. J.S. founded the first ambulatory HIV clinic in Mexico, La Clinical Condessa, here in Mexico City, and for the past five years, he has been the head of the National HIV/AIDS program in Mexico, Sinsida. In this role, he launched Mexico's universal access to ARV policy, and has led government-wide anti-machismo and anti-homophobia programs, as well as appointed the first trans-gender woman to an official position with the Mexican government. For the past two years, Dr. J.S. has also served on the board of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria…”

Dr J.S. began his/her presentation this way:

“…….First let me start with a few definitions. MSM is a construct which tries to capture behavior in that tight entity. Sexual orientation includes homosexual, bisexual and heterosexual. MSM is a category that includes gay and non-gay identified men, bisexual situational sex between men, prisons, schools, militaries, male sex workers and some trans-gender persons. MSM includes a wide variety of traditional and local terms worldwide….”

From here the guy/gal went on and on and finally concluded with the following statements:

“……And, finally, yes, I am married, so I would like to thank my husband for his patience during all these weeks previous to the conference.”

The listening audience broke into wild applause. Yes they clapped for him and he seemed to love it. So he continued.

“Yes, I said husband. I did not make any language mistake. We got married where it is legal, almost four years ago. And of course, condoms and testing are part of our lives. Thank you very much.”

Now you know how that left me. Hollow and drained.

And then there was the global village. It was more like a global cesspool if you ask me. This was where participants from various countries and organizations displayed and showcased the activities and programs in which they are engaged. Like the leaves of the mustard tree where the birds of the air came and gathered, the global village was the focal point of evil. It was such a scary place. On display were the wares of MSMs, Transgenders, Drug Addicts, Pimps and Prostitutes.

They were all over the place with their haughty hearts. They walked with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes - walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet.

And what did I do about all of these? Nada…Nothing!!!

In Mexico I was a light, but I failed to shine. I was city on a hill, but I hid myself. My righteous indignation was diddly-squat in face of overwhelming evil. The forces of darkness danced circles around me. My face was cherry red with humiliation. I was beaten fair and square, tongue talking and all.

In my heart I asked,

“Where was the body of Christ when children of men sank into this perdition? Where was I? Where were you?”

At church, perhaps.

While we are busy with our countless church activities, the world slips further and further into damnation. In the midst of our arguments over the length of the beards of Aaron, hapless souls are heading straight to eternal damnation. While we are intellectually engaged in the deconstruction of the Holy Scriptures, the souls of men and women are bound for everlasting destruction.

Oh yes as we collect the tithes and offerings and build gorgeous edifices of worship, the edifices of salvation for the souls of men crumble all around us. As we obey our denominations’ bylaws and follow the meaningless sacraments, mindless ordinances, and man-made doctrines that our various parishes promote and practice, men, women, and children fall into Hades.

Alas brethren, we’ve got to stand up and fight the good fight of faith. It’s not enough to go to church, say our prayers, or read the scriptures. We’ve got to confront evil squarely.

We are light; we need to shine. We are a city on a hill; we’ve got to be seen. We are His voice; we must be heard.

People, we’ve got to,

“Plant the good seeds of righteousness, in order to harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12).


“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5 KJV).


adetayo said...

Hhmmm...this piece is very thought-provoking and left me sober with a heavy heart...when/how did the world get to this point with the church looking...we certainly have misplaced priorities...I say this not as a general statement because I'm sure there are some church groups who are actively involved in speaking out against and doing something about this evil in their little circle of influence, but truth be told, most of us don't...I've found myself in a similar situation on a smaller scale and I said nothing and did nothing...one guy in my lab group in one of my courses in school was gay and he talked about his "partner" openly and he even asked me if I knew about the gay people's association in Lagos and how he wanted to do his research among gay people...instead of me to open my mouth and witness to him and tell him of the consequences of the evil he was engaged in, I was just staring at him trying very hard to hide my shock and disbelief...bottomline is I did NOTHING....I believe God will hold us accountable for the souls of the people we come across everyday...as individuals and as a church. Hhmm...may God have mercy on us.

Temi said...

I'll be curious to know what any Christian could have done in such a setting.