On a Crusade against HIV


THE pastor is a busy man. If he’s not being interviewed by the media he’s hard at work with his outreach programme or ministering to those in need at his Way of Life Ministries in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. And the storm over his sermon entitled “Jesus was HIV-positive” doesn’t seem to be dying down. No sooner had 43-year-old Xola Skosana delivered his controversial message than media from around the world swooped on the story. His statements grabbed headlines in the UK, USA, India and Australia as well as across Africa. It created quite a stir among many Christians at home too.

“Yes, my comments have caused quite a noise,” he admits as he drives us to his office in the heart of Khayelitsha. “Since that sermon the phone hasn’t stopped ringing, but I stand by what I said and I’ll continue to do what I can to break down the stigma of the disease.” Pastor Xola may have made himself unpopular with a certain section of society but it’s clear as we venture down the potholed township streets that he’s also something of a local hero. People wave at him, calling out “pastor” as we pass, and when we park a group of kids playing soccer on the street run to greet him. The pastor, casually dressed in jeans and a striped T-shirt, exchanges pleasantries before the kids scurry back to their game and we finally have a moment of quiet in his small office in a school outbuilding.

Bibles are piled around the room along with keyboards, speakers and the pulpit. His assistant is talking on the phone as she does church work on her computer. As soon as he sits down she hands him a pile of messages and a note reminding him of another interview with a national radio station.

“I must continue with these interviews because many people, including pastors, are shying away from preaching about HIV. We as the church are folding our arms while people die like flies. We have blood on our hands,” he says. “The problem is many pastors are themselves living with the virus, and are thus afraid to preach about it.”

These statements come from a man who knows all too well the pain of HIV. He lost two sisters to the virus, first his elder sister in 2001, then the younger in July this year.

“We pastors preach at funerals of people who have been killed by the virus. We’re supposed to be preaching to them while they’re still alive, praying for them and giving them drugs and food to fight the disease,” he says. Churches in South Africa have strongly criticised the pastor. Reverend Mzukisi Faleni of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa says such preaching is dangerous.

For the full article read DRUM of 30 September 2010

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